Inverting the pyramid

Many years ago, when I gained promotion to my first management job, I thought it was a case of telling people what to do and making sure the numbers added up.  Pretty soon I was swamped with insecure staff asking my advice, poor performing staff taking up 80% of my time, high staff turnover etc. etc…………. It was all so confusing; if they just did the job the way I used to it would be fine.  After all, I had been promoted on the basis of my performance.  
Outside of work, I had been forced to take professional advice on some personal issues, which resolved most of my problems by downsizing my ego and reducing my own sense of importance.  A great friend and mentor of mine (having listened to a couple of hour of my whinging) recommended that  I apply the same principles to management and passed on a technique for doing this.  He suggested that when I was commuting to work in the morning, I visualised my role as being at the bottom of the pile and that my function was to enable staff to achieve their potential – not get them to do everything my way.  He also suggested that I learn to not react immediately – because my instincts were clearly not working at the moment – so I needed a few minutes to think things through rather than “wing it”.  
 
Those of you who know me will recognise how hard I found it to take that advice!
 
By taking this route I discovered the most powerful question I could ask when I was being asked for advice was “What would you do about this then?” I also found that if I received the answer “I don’t know that’s why I’m asking you” the best response was to give them my advice and ask them to complete some other task for me that I had been unable to finish.  This avoided the problem of making people think they couldn’t come to me with problems but they didn’t bother me with trivia. 
 
The results were immediate and made my life substantially more satisfying.  I also found that by giving all the credit for work well done to my staff, they seemed to enjoy the experience much more as well. 
 
The other point was that I also had to learn that no technique would work for every member of staff, so I had to adapt my approach to the personality in front of me. Not all of my staff were natural problem solvers, but give them a piece of detailed work to do with clear instructions and they could plough through work and get it right first time, you just couldn’t rely on them to solve any problems.
 
I can’t say I managed to maintain this behaviour as much as I should, but I managed to do it enough to realise it was a goal worth working for.  So, with a certain smugness I starting passing on this new “wisdom” only to find that John Timpson’s excellent book “Upside Down Management” was already doing so in a far more eloquent way. 
 
Sometimes my ego is my worst enemy!

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