Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

3 Times When Good Bosses Know It's Best to Back Away

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You take a lot of pride in being a boss and in running a tight ship. There’s no time for confusion or for mistakes, so in an effort to avoid that you go out of your way to be extra clear and check in as often as possible.

As well-meaning as these efforts are, they can sometimes backfire. Over-communicating is at best a little annoying, and at worst, a reminder that you don’t think your team’s capable of getting the job done.

So, here’s a friendly reminder to give everyone you work with more credit. I promise that delegating isn’t akin to leaving someone on a deserted island. You can do this!

In fact, you can do this by starting to trust your team to do the following:

1. To Understand What You’re Saying

You have a great idea or a solution to a complex problem, now all you need is to explain it. So, you write a six-paragraph email or monopolize a phone conversation, to be certain everyone “gets it.”

But your explain-every-detail philosophy will probably backfire, because the “average attention span” is less than 10 seconds long. (Set a timer on your phone to remind yourself just how fleeting that is.)

So, shorten that email and drill down to the essentials of whatever it is you want to get across. If anyone’s confused, they’ll probably say so. And if someone disagrees, it doesn’t mean he missed your point, he may have different needs or considerations—in which case your best bet is to stop hammering away at your idea and listen.

2. To Ask Questions if They’re Confused

There’s one piece of career advice I’ve been saying on repeat for the last month: This is not the last email you’ll ever send. A lot of people stress about covering every detail, asking and answering every question, and considering every scenario possible—lest the recipient be confused.

However, this approach wastes a lot of time and energy. Not to mention, it’s always possible there’ll be a question or idea you hadn’t considered. And even if there is, it’s not like someone will hit a giant gong and your career will be finished.

So, ask yourself if your email shares everything the other person needs to know to accomplish your ask. If so, all you need to add is a suggestion for how she can get more more information if needed, whether that’s a link, another person’s contact info, or simply the line, “Please let me know if you have any questions!”

3. To Run Lead on a Project

You can call yourself a control freak and you can admit you’re a reluctant delegator; but saying this won’t help resolve the issue at hand. While you may not like handing over the reins, the best way to move past that is to actually just do it.

Rather than dwelling on being the boss, start thinking like a leader and select someone on your team to be in charge of the next big project. And if you’re worried this person’s not ready? Ask yourself: Are you worried he won’t be able to do a good job or are you actually worried about your role (i.e., what you’ll do instead or that you’ll be seen as less-needed)? More often than not, it’s the latter.

Telling someone he can run a project, and then micromanaging it, is really demoralizing. So, as you build up your delegation skills, skip the “reluctantly sharing a task” stage and instead empower this person to take charge from the start. Be there for support and feedback, but trust him to run point. It’ll help you both grow in your roles.

People are often rated based on expectations—whether they meet, fall short of, or exceed them. But it’s not true that someone’s ability to go above and beyond rests solely on her. The person judging her is just as important. You have to give someone the opportunity to rise to the occasion in order for her to do it. So, work on giving others more credit: It’ll save you time and energy, and it’ll help build trust—what’s better than that?