Letting Go

In my first executive role, I had a difficult time letting go and allowing my managers to do their job. Whether it was getting involved in daily conflict resolution or overriding minor decisions, I spent more time acting as a puppet master than a manager. This is a tendency common in staffing and is understandable especially for the owner-operator who has built their company from scratch. However, by injecting ourselves into tactical operational decisions we impede a manager’s development, by undermining accountability and losing crucial opportunities to evaluate and coach our management team.

I was speaking to one of my clients about this very issue, and their response was they simply didn’t trust that their managers had the ability to make and implement the right decisions.   However, while that may be justifiable to help with daily operational decisions, it is not a long-term solution.  Eventually, the executive must delegate decision making authority to the management team.

This does not mean that once a person is hired or promoted into a management role that the executive doesn’t stay involved in the operations.  However, executives must eventually allow a manager to do their job independently and they can begin the process by asking the following questions:

  • Does the manager lack any skills that are required for the position?
  • Does the team respect the manager?
  • How often are decisions overturned and why?
  • Does the manager learn from their mistakes and adjust their approach?
  • Are most disagreements focused on nominal differences of opinion?
  • What progress must the executive see in order to pull away from the operations?

For an executive, letting go of day-to-day decision making can prove to be a formidable challenge, but one that must be met to maximize the impact of the management team.  Managers will make mistakes that the experienced executive would have avoided and thus encourages the executive to want to do the job themselves.   I would propose a different perspective.

Mistakes, when properly managed, provide invaluable lessons in accountability and problem solving for the management team.   If the right people are in place, these lessons are simply the price that must be paid to prepare the management team for the next phase of growth.