Don’t Abuse the Easy Button!

To an organization and especially to the organization’s leader, a manager is an easy button.  But even though a manager can solve the problem, assigning them tasks meant for others is not the right answer.  In every organization, there are going to be problems that require leaders, management, and supervisors.  The hard part is knowing what the problem is and the right people to put on it.

In an organization I used to be in was having an uptick in accidents.  Mostly damage to equipment, which can be expensive if not addressed.  Many attempts were made to fix this issue with only marginal success.  Because the problem continued, a senior C-suite executive decided to assign the entry level managers “over-watch duty.”  This meant a manager would watch the processes that were having the majority of the costly accidents to ensure all process and protocols were followed.  The additional task of the managers would add about an hour’s worth of work to their schedules each day.  Additionally, they could not dictate where this time would take place as it was spread out throughout their day.

More recently, I heard about another organization that is compliance issues.  These compliance issues are not critical, but there were a few related to safety, which is always serious.  Again, a senior C-suite executive has decided the managers need to build a schedule to have a manager walking around observing processes 24/7.

What these executives have failed to see is that although they are solving the immediate problem, they are losing so much in other areas.  Not only does this tactic destroy trust, but morale, motivation, commitment and other things suffer as well.  And that does not even take into account the work the manager is supposed to be doing that either goes undone, is delayed, or is completed late.  Many managers ended up spending more than an hour after work making up for all the interruptions or the time they weren’t working on their tasks but were “playing big brother” to the people they have charged with actually doing the work.

The issues these organizations faced are not uncommon.  The solution to the problem created a Band-Aid fix but failed to address the root-cause.  The supervisors were not doing what they should have been doing.  There were problems with accountability, training, and discipline.  Unfortunately, these problems still exist because they were never identified and corrected.

The proper response to these issues is to focus on the supervisors.  They need to feel important and worthy.  Micro-managing them has the opposite effect.  All aspects of the supervisors should be evaluated.  From hiring practices and promotion to training, all of these play a fundamental role to how the organization functions.  Supervisors are critical to the success of every organization because they translate directions from managers into tangible tasks for the other employees to work on.  A strong emphasis needs to be placed on their training, so they know what to do.  They need clear guidance on what is expected of them, and they need to be held accountable.  Give them room to make mistakes.  This is going to cost the organization money, but it is money well spent to have unforgettable lessons taught to the supervisor in a real-life setting.

Managers are the easy button, but using an easy button can cause long-lasting damage to the long-term health of the organization.

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