The original idea for this article came from a moment at my son’s summer camp. Each day begins and ends with all the camp members and counselors joining in “community.” In the center of their community circle is a “worry” stone. Some cultures have a stone in the center of their meeting place so each person can touch it before they begin their business. The stone is a physical representation for participants to symbolically remove any worries they have so they can focus on the task at hand.
It reminded me of managers who are guilty of this style of management. Managers feel that by allowing employees to come in and transfer their worries to them makes them a good manager. But just like the rock at my son’s camp, eventually it cracked. The story at camp was that there are only so many worries the rock could hold. I would say the same holds true for managers. By constantly taking on others worries, managers end up spending their own valuable time and become unable to accomplish their own workload.
Now this “worry stone” style of management is harmful but affects one person, the manager. A more harmful style of management is what I call the “drug pusher” management style that is prevalent today.
A drug pusher builds their business by seeming friendly and wanting everyone to feel good. They may start by giving something for free, but their goal is to create a dependency on their product and increase their business. For managers, the pusher analogy applies because they want to be viewed as helpful and friendly. They begin by reaching out and telling their team that they are there to help.
Next, the managers go out and give advice with the intention of helping. Some managers will view this helping as a good idea since giving advice is great. Where it goes wrong is when they end up telling their employees what to do versus taking the time to train them to do it.
For example: Reminding their team of a deadline, seeing them getting ready to make a mistake and then preventing them from a failure. All under the guise of saving time.
I can hear the chorus of managers saying, “Why would I want my team to fail?” “It is easier to tell them versus taking time to train them. I don’t have that time.”
My answer is that just as raising children, small failures are necessary for long-term success
Each time managers go out and give employees a “taste” of their help, employees begin to become addicted to it. They expect it. They crave it and will now begin to search their manager out for a solution, instead of working to solve it for themselves. Why would they? Just go to their “pusher” and get their fix.
Managers, ask yourself if any of your team has come in at any time to ask what they should do. Do you take the time to train them, or do you just give them the answer? You just gave them their “fix” for the day.
Just like an intervention, you sometimes need to wean people off of your management style “drug.” It will not be easy. You will be seen as a downer; you have changed, just like the person who gives up being the life of the party. In the end, it is better for all involved.
There are three things that managers can do to help wean employees off of their dependency.
- Ask the employee what they think they should do. They may respond, “I do not know,” so then it becomes a teaching opportunity for the manager using the 8-Step Coaching Process.
- Have the employee will present their plan for approval first.
- Review the progress of a project and give advice on higher-level strategy when the employee implements plans on their own
The third option should be the goal of any manager, but it takes a commitment to the first two steps in order to get there.
A well-run company has managers who train their employees and then monitor progress. Companies that fail to achieve have management styles that create dependent employees who are constantly looking to get their “fix” so they can do their job. It’s time to kick the habit and get your team thinking for themselves.