Managers need to know when to step back

Monday, November 11th, 2013 By Jack Nevison

Being a project manager presents a whole host of challenges. A subtle, but very important, challenge is to know when to get out of your employees' way.

This isn't always easy. After all, if you are put in charge of a project, it is likely because you are highly technically skilled. You might be tempted to try to do as much of the work yourself as possible, or to micromanage what your team members are doing.

Though it may be difficult, you must resist this urge. In most cases, your team members were also chosen for their particular abilities. And, in most cases, they will work better without too much interference.

Harvard Business Review contributor Randy Komisar argues in a recent article that managers should strive to be "minimally invasive." They should offer guidance and leadership when necessary, but try to stay at an arm's length whenever possible.

"The idea reflects the struggles of tech-centered start-ups to rethink the role of professional managers," Komisar wrote. "These companies tend to be run by engineers and creatives, not MBAs. At least in Silicon Valley, management is becoming just another operating function, like payroll and finance and sales, all serving to facilitate the work of the technically and creatively skilled who do the heavy lifting."

This means that managers essentially have three jobs: They hire, fire and serve the people working for them. To satisfy this last responsibility, managers must set clear team priorities and project goals—then get out of the way while the work is done.

New Leaf's program, "Leading Project Teams," and our free white paper, "The Responsibility Assignment Matrix," offer concrete ways to organize your team to deliver the most—with the least interference from you. Our online QPM estimating games let you learn while you earn PDU credits for PMP recertification.

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