Most of my clients tell me they are trying to do more with fewer resources, and as they look to the future, this is unlikely to change.

Often, well-meaning managers try to lessen their team’s burden by “helping”; this comes in many forms:
• Doing the work themselves
• Getting projects “ready” to start
• Helping team members with projects
• Finishing/presenting output/results to leadership

While the manager’s involvement may make a small dent in the team’s workload, there are several unintended consequences for the team:
• Fewer interesting growth opportunities for team members which can erode morale
• Delays in getting the projects “ready”, shortening the remaining time to completion
• Less input on how the work gets done, resulting in less ownership
• Reduced opportunity to interact with clients/customers, slowing professional growth
• Limited team member visibility to leadership, blunting networking opportunities

Additionally, under-delegating has consequences for the well-meaning manager:
• More doing and less delegation adds to the manager’s work and stress
• Less time for purposeful planning, decision-making and prioritization
• Less time and energy to coach/lead/grow the team

This creates a vicious cycle and is exacerbated with each additional project. Over time, team members can become less productive, less motivated, and may leave the organization, further compounding the original resource issue.

After having hundreds of conversations with managers and employees, my experience and research has uncovered several common gaps between how the manager perceives the situation and how their team thinks and feels about them.

When I speak with mangers about this phenomenon, I typically hear the comments in the left column of the table below. When I speak with individual contributors, I typically hear the right column story.

Manager Perspective
They are too busy; I’ll just do this myself.
This project needs to be better defined before I hand it off.
I’ll take the lead on this and my team can help.
This project is too difficult for Sam, it would be more efficient if I just took care of it.
This has too much leadership exposure, I’d better handle it.
Joe is too new to take this on. I’ll get it started and then hand it over.
Team members like to be involved in a variety of work, so we share a lot of projects.
I’m pitching-in to lessen my over-tasked team’s workload by doing more myself (during this tough time).
I’m going to receive a lot of questions on how to do this project, it’s just easier for me to handle it.
My team members have not expressed an interest in this type of work, easier for me to just do it. (leads to not having the conversations with your team where you learn about their interests and how to push them outside of their comfort zone).
Employee Perspective
Why doesn’t he give that to us? Doesn’t he trust us?
I’d rather be involved from the beginning, than picking it up after the key decisions have been made.
I am trying to help, but my boss is too busy for “us” to make progress.
I would like more challenging projects.
I would like more leadership exposure; I’d like to work on something that really matters to upper management. She takes all the best projects.
I know I am new, but will I ever get my own project? My work is already a little repetitive.
I wish I had work that was 100% mine.
My manager is so busy, he doesn’t have time to help me, develop me, or support me.
My manager is too busy working on individual projects to be invested in my growth.
Wow, what a cool opportunity. How come I didn’t get asked?
Does the table above ring any bells for you?

Can you see both perspectives?

How does it feel?

If managers knew what their employees really thought, maybe they would ‘help’ less and ‘coach’ more.

STOP Doing and START Coaching!
The best people managers focus more on coaching and less on doing tasks themselves. This serves the greater good on countless levels:

• Good Managers serve as amplifiers, supporting the work of many team members
• ICs (Individual Contributors) learn how to do more efficiently
• ICs have more accountability and job satisfaction
• Organizations benefit from increasing team capabilities
• Managers have time and energy to coach, plan, strategize, providing their team with a vision


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