Your Managers Are Passing Their Time Cargo-Culting Important Work

During these interesting times where multitudes of tech businesses are busy trying to reinvent how they work together (and sometimes their business models), it is becoming clearer and clearer that there is a big gap between what managers think they should do to what they truly should do. You cannot blame this on the pandemic: it is not likely to make any single manager into a bad one.

What is happening is that many managers have lost their crutches, almost instantaneously. I’ve seen this at over a dozen companies in the past couple of weeks, especially when working with tech executives. All of a sudden, they realize that some of their managers (or they themselves) seem to become a massive bottleneck for productive work or create work for work’s sake.

This is because, as an industry, we have become accustomed to cargo-culting what seems like what a “real manager” would do, instead of focusing on the leverage managers can have over the effectiveness o their teams. I regularly review calendars of managers in tech when working together, and it can be astounding for them when they first stop to take stock of everything going on in their weeks and its little significance.

Your managers fill the calendars to the brim with these seemingly essential things:

  • Planning meetings, where they go into detail and chew things up of their teams.
  • Five different “syncs” a day without any action items resulting in them, literally the kind of meetings you could’ve replaced with a Slack message.
  • Insignificant interviews: they interview a lot, but their interviews rarely have a hard “yes or no” result, meaning they could be skipped entirely.
  • Micro-managing their people instead of letting them do their thing.
  • Being a “hub” that all communication is flowing through, instead of empowering their people.
  • And so on…

This is the busywork that does not focus on creating more significant leverage for their teams. As the executive running things, you should use this precious time to coach them into doing what matters:

  • Work on their feedback muscle and provide their employees with feedback to induce growth regularly. If you don’t work on that muscle, it will atrophy.
  • Mentoring and coaching: instead of chewing up tasks and micro-managing, it is better to invest in explicit mentoring sessions to help their less experienced staff grow.
  • Vision: rather than being myopic and thinking about the next couple of days, take the time to think ahead and about creating more significant impact.
  • Process/organizational improvements: find out what’s holding the team back, or what can be optimized to achieve better results, higher quality, less maintenance work, and so on.

Just this week, I’ve spoken to about ten clients managing teams ranging from five engineers to hundreds. All of them are being wonderfully split into a dichotomy of those who are busier than ever and those that suddenly have time to think. The former means that your managers have lost crutches and are now struggling to walk. The latter means that they have been doing busywork and can now realize how to one-up their game. Either way, it’s time to do some growing!

I’m reminding you that I will be hosting a free webinar next week, sign up here: Creating Leverage: Leadership Operating System for Growth in Crisis and Instilling Lasting Productivity Through Focus