Good Managers Know How to Do Less

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) publishes an "Advancement Weekly" blog with leadership advice I find helpful, such as this post:

Leaders who want to be more productive should stop micromanaging their employees and trust them, says a management researcher.

"Most leaders do too much," says J. Keith Murnighan, professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. "And when they do, they're seen as micromanagers."

Murnighan recently spoke with a Kellogg School blog about the research that went into his new book, Do Nothing!: How to Stop Overmanaging and Become a Great Leader. He explains that the most successful managers delegate almost all of their "regular work" to their staff, freeing up their own time "so that they can facilitate and orchestrate everyone else's performance." Leaders who do this, he notes, improve the morale of their staff, create a better work product and lead a less stressful life.

Doing this, however, is easier said than done, Murnighan admits. Many leaders who are promoted for their technical savvy in getting certain tasks done, he adds, have a hard time delegating those tasks in their new management roles.

"Successful leaders must shift gears and, literally, do less of what they used to do, even though they were good at it," Murnighan says. Yet, some leaders "feel so comfortable using their old, established skills that they often have a hard time changing."

Murnighan offers several strategies for managers looking to stop micromanaging their employees, delegate more and take full advantage of their time:

  • Leaders should seek out the most qualified employees and match them to assignments that best use their skills.
  • Leaders should "go beyond their own comfort zones" by assigning employees tasks that reflect that they are trusted more than they have been in the past-such as mission—critical tasks or those that may have been completed by a manager previously.
  • Leaders should ask their employees often, "How are you?" and "Is there anything I can do to make your job easier?" These questions show that a leader cares about his or her employees and whether they are performing well.

This article is from the July 16, 2012 issue of Advancement Weekly.

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