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Hands Off Management - Frying Pan, Fire or Neither?

Aug 17, 2007
How tempting is it to fix things? You know, you are passing by one of your teams cubicles and they are doing something you know all about. So you give a hand...

And then it's fixed, and you feel a rosy glow all about how you've 'helped'. But who is this about, you or them.

You see, it can be so frustrating, for someone already frustrated, when some smart-ass boss comes along to show their superiority. In fact, after it's fixed, all they get is a general feeling of inadequacy. And more frustration.

And next time ythey have the same problem, they can't remember what they did because you did it so fast, in such a smart-assed sort of way. They either need to wait for you to pass by again or, well, struggle again.

As a boss, it's easy to do something that you know how to do. In fact it's a big psychological boost to your little own sense of self, when you've achieved something that someone else is struggling with. So it's a 'nice' feeling to be better at something when someone else isn't.

It's not your fault, in fact it's not even an action you think consciously about, it just happens that way.

And with some bosses, it happens often. I know, I've done it myself. It comes out of another emotion too. It comes out of a sense of 'helping' someone in distress - it's the 'knight in shining armour' thing. And it feels good.

Yet, it has a big downside. Getting someone else out of their 'frying pan' gets you into another 'fire'. Because if you get so good at fixing other people's problems, that's what they'll expect of you. And wait for you to do it.

So, you frustrate the hell out of them because you fix things for them all the time and then they start waiting for you to be the problem-solver. Your 'fixing' everything starts to pile up on you. You then get frustrated with them because you have such 'useless' employees around you.

I wonder why!

So, here's a way to try. For someone struggling with something, however small, use the 4S Method.

- Show
- Supervise
- Stand Back
- Succeed

This means that you Show them how to do something, then you watch them and Supervise as they do it, maybe they get it wrong - if so, let them analyse why. Stand Back whilst they at last Succeed - and then get it right forever.

This is the 'Neither'. You get the job done right, by the person whose job it is to get it right and then you are freed up to do more of this.

Thus building a team of capable, fulfilled and 'motivated to learn more' individuals.

No Frying Pan, no Fire and Neither of you feel bad about it.

In fact, everything is a bit rosy, after all!
About the Author
2005-6 Martin Haworth is a Business and Management Coach. He has hundreds of hints, tips and ideas at his website, www.coaching-businesses-to-success.com
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