Managers: Don’t Answer That Question! – part two1 min read

In the previous posting, I wrote about how managers are chronically undermining whatever formal delegation systems are in place and enabling dependency all around them.

One of the reasons managers answer so many questions from their staff and others in the company is that they fear that if they don’t, then really important issues and opportunities may be addressed incorrectly or sub optimally.

A key to getting out of the round of endless questions while still being involved in important ones, is to set some boundaries, some limits.

This might sound like this: “I want you to develop three solutions before you come to ask me a question. Ask your colleagues for help if you get stuck. But, in the case of the following critical customer, Immense Big Machines, Inc., I want to be informed of any issues involving delay or cost overruns in Project XZY.”

With the right boundaries set around your new rule, you can still be assured of being involved where you need to be.

Finally, to make your staff and others in the company comfortable about taking responsibility for solving problems and answering their own questions, you need to have environment in which mistakes are expected and dealt with positively. Remember, if you are not making mistakes, you are doubtless doing very little and learning not at all. Mistakes need to be analyzed and the lessons learned. Perhaps the only rule about mistakes is that they should not be repeated.

Note that this skill, “Don’t Answer That Question!” is a great precursor to grasping the opportunities for controlling your time. More discussion about this in my entry: Seizing Your Time – the first step in time management.