There are many corporate executives who have come up into management through the ranks. This is a very common practice with many companies, and if handled well, can be highly effective. However, when executives do not let go of their previous roles and do not allow others to learn and grow in those roles, this process can be the beginning of micromanaging that is more damaging than helpful. Additionally, just because executives can do a job does not mean they should. I have seen this for years and have even found myself involved in tasks that my employees should be doing. I discovered that I was actually involved in a task that clearly was not my role. Hmm... Is it possible that I was hurting the company by doing this?
Executives, here are four questions to ask yourself the next time you're working on something that is not your job.
1. What's Best for the business?
Let's say you are the chief marketing officer of the company and you find yourself writing web copy, proofing a design or even dabbling in code on the website. If you have a team of trained marketers that work for you, let them do their job. Also, just because you know how to do this does not mean you should be taking up valuable company time doing a job that is not yours. After all, each person is costing the company money and it's not good business for the C-level officer to be working on a task when other employees are perfectly capable and trained and at a lower salary.
2. Should I Focus on High-Level Strategy or Tactics?
We all know both of these are important. However, sometimes diving into the weeds to get the job done is better handled by people who do it everyday. Executives, you are a seasoned veteran and more knowledgeable at strategy and vision, not tactical in the trench work that was you're past life. Your many years of experience have trained you to work on higher-level business that others are not trained to do. So stick with it.
3. Am I Modeling Poor Business Practice?
"I have found myself working on tactical projects because I really like doing them. However, I also know it's not time well spent for the business." Do you find yourself saying this? What's an executive to do when they find themself working on projects that are clearly better suited for their staff? Well, it's time to start modeling better management behavior and think about the more mission critical work that is on your to-do list and stop allowing yourself to do work that is more enjoyable for you and more fun. We all know this approach is not a good business model. When your employees see you doing this, it just might be sending them signals that you only care about working hard on things you like to do and that you don't care about working smart. I think we all agree this is probably not the best approach.
4. Am I A Micromanager?
Everyone hates this term because it has very few positive traits. If you're an employee with a boss who is a micromanager, you probably hate working for them because they are dabbling in all your work and you end up taking a lot longer to accomplish your job. Besides the mistrust and dis-empowerment. If you're an executive and the micromanager phrase has been tossed around with your name attached, it's time to start trusting your employees and let them do their jobs. Just because you can do their job doesn't mean you should. Micromanagers tend to invest more time with the details of their business operations instead of crafting the long-term growth strategies like an executive should.
"A good manager trains and delegates, and you can't do that if you're taking on everything -- regardless of how important the task is." - Harvard Business Review
Some executives are both tactical and strategic in their approach to their job. This can be good for some companies. It can also work well for much smaller companies, especially startups. However, when executives begin to constantly work on projects and workflow that is nowhere near what they should be doing, that is not the best use of their time. That's when employee frustration and inefficiencies occur, productivity decreases and morale goes out the window. If that's the end goal executives, keep doing it. But if you want a healthy department and bottom line, my suggestion is to equip and empower your employees and then get out of the way.