Sunday, August 26, 2007

How will the troops perform after you have left?

It's a common bit of wisdom in the military that the best time to judge a commander is not when he's in front of his troops, but by watching how his troops perform after he has left.

Let's put that to the test. Let's assume you are a good manager (and the fact that you are reading says that you probably are). Your team is known for getting the job done well and everyone thinks you area solid leader for it. Now let's suppose that you are taken out of the picture - maybe you get promoted, maybe you hit the lottery, whatever... you are gone. What is your successor going to find?

Was your team's success due to you taking control, or because you let your team manage themselves effectively? Did they succeed because you coached and trained them well, or because you plugged the gaps they left behind. Did you have a competent, intelligent and resourceful team capable of handling exceptions, or did you shield them from change and just keep them focused on their silos? All the truth behind the performance will come shining through when a new boss takes the helm - this is why the military changes unit commanders so frequently (and maybe your company should too?)

The truth is that the best managers build great teams of fully capable and confident people who really don't need their manager on-hand to deliver success - they could basically do it without the boss in tow. Now that's not saying that the boss has no play. The fact is that the best bosses use the "free time" they get from not having to ride shotgun all day to continually refine process, preempt emergencies and constantly invest in the development of their people.

If that seems painfully simple - it is! Now, you ask if it is so simple, why don't more bosses "get it"? Answer that and the Harvard Business School will let you teach a course on it!


Review this post with your team and make this pact with them: "If you will help me be a better manager, I will make you the most effective and successful team in our business." This partnership is your first step towards becoming an outstanding leader of an exceptional team.



Ask a Manager said...

Great post! All so true.

Wally Bock said...

Most bosses don't "get it" for two reasons. Reason number one is that all of our imagery of effective command also involves control. They don't know what my friend, John, used to tell his police recruits about the situations they would face on the street. "It's your job to make sure the situation is under control," he would tell them. "But it's not necessarily your job to control it."

The other reason is that the boss's boss often expects him or her to "be in charge." The only outward signs of that appear to be doing control-like things.

Contrast that with Ricardo Semler. When people ask how he controls a company like Semco, his answer is simple. "I don't."