One of the best questions I was asked as a new ‘manager of managers’ was –
“what have you got to give and who should you be giving it to?”
It followed a meeting with my boss where I had been berating the fact that I was overloaded, stressed and frustrated at the lack of performance of several of my indirect reports.
My boss asked me why I was dealing with this non-performance issue instead of my direct report (i.e. the person in question’s direct manager).
It stopped me in my tracks. She was right. I realised that I should be spending my time and effort coaching, developing and managing my direct reports, rather than trying to do their job for them. And that it is their job to do the same to their reporting staff.
Often we jump beyond our sphere and meddle in business which should be the job of our direct reports.
If you find yourself in this predicament, stop and ask yourself why.
Are you lacking confidence in your direct report to do the job properly?
If this is the case, continue to ask yourself questions like “why do I not have confidence in this person?” It could range from them not having the skills, or you not having the time to coach or upskill them in a particular area.
Are you are reluctant to let go?
If so, you may need to develop your delegation skills. This is one of the toughest leadership attributes to master, but will take you to a whole new level when you do. Read my post about why leaders must let go to find out more on the subject.
Or, are you concerned about their ongoing lack of performance in the job?
In this case it could be time to assess whether they are in the right role (if you have tried everything else first).
What are the consequences?
The reality is when we jump down a level and encroach in our direct reports’ territory, it undermines their power and credibility.
It sends a message to their team that you don’t believe in their ability as a leader. It can stifle their confidence. It may consequently hamper their ability to grow and develop. They can begin to lose enthusiasm for their role. And it can damage professional relationships at every rung of the ladder.
Most importantly though, it will eat up your time, meaning you are not free to be working where your skills are needed most.
As the saying goes, you end up spending too much time on the dance floor and not enough time on the balcony.
By all means look across their teams and have meaningful interactions with individuals within – but leave the doing and managing up to your direct reports.
The next time you find yourself, getting a WEE BIT too involved in places you shouldn’t, take a step back and ask yourself – “what have I got to give?” and more importantly, “who should I be giving it to?”