Sometimes doing nothing is doing something.
I get it. You care. You know better than anyone else in the business. And so when you see something going awry, or even if you’re just curious, you offer your wisdom. You help. People seem to get a lot out of what you bring.
Except when you talk to people who don’t report to you.
In which case you totally just screwed up, and made the most common managerial mistake.
On the surface, you brought guidance and good ideas. Under the surface, you perpetuated what is probably already a deep cultural issue that creates disengagement.
But how could your helpful, well-meaning guidance create disengagement? Unfortunately, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It sucks, but it’s true.
When your business is five people, you probably need to be involved in everything. But the bigger it gets, the less involved you want to be. Why?
So many reasons, I could write a whole book on it, but here’s the summary of what happens when you cross organizational lines.
- You undermine the person’s actual manager
- You confuse the employee about who their real boss is (see Office Space)
- You may be avoiding an aspect of your own job and doing what’s fun and interesting instead of what’s important
- You spread yourself too thin, resulting in chronic overwhelm
- You train the employee by example so that they cross organizational lines as well
- You save the employee from having to think for themselves, grow, and solve their own problem
- You avoid learning how to manage managers, stunting the growth of the organization and making you a bottleneck
The quick and dirty: if you’re a manager talking to an employee who doesn’t report to you, start by assuming that anything beyond sports and weather isn’t okay. The higher up you are on the organizational chart, the more important this is. Many CEOs don’t understand the weight of their words, and their passing moods and random thoughts easily send employees down paths that waste resources and ultimately demoralize the culture. Major managerial mistake.
“But my people need my direct guidance!”
“But no one knows the product like I do!”
“But I was right there, and we were just having coffee!”
I know, I know. You’ve got great reasons for making the most common and destructive managerial mistake on the planet. Great reasons often precede profound mistakes.
In the next two articles, we’ll go into the last two bullets above and I’ll systematically neutralize your excuses for you. You’re so welcome, it’s a pleasure to serve you. In the meantime, see if you can rein in your desire for instant gratification and at least give it a try!