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Software entrepreneur Matt Casey thinks it is. Dismayed at the ineffectiveness of so many managers, he decided the cause was they were being asked to do and be too many things for too many people: authoritative, supportive, demanding, encouraging, brave, cautious and a good listener. The solution, he felt, was for them to forsake those tasks, become lazy, and let their staff handle it themselves.

Indeed, he made a shocking discovery: One of his staffers on their own could build 10 times as much software as the team of 40 or 50 – if you left him or her alone. “When I tried to work out why that was, it immediately came to me: It’s because that person isn’t endlessly in meetings, doesn’t have to justify all of their decisions and they know every aspect of their job so they don’t need to get lots of other people to do it. In other words, they’re not being managed – they’ve just been given a clear goal,” he writes on the Welcome to the Jungle blog.

He realized modern management principles were set when the internet didn’t exist. For example, he was a devout believer in one-on-one meetings, to keep connected with his staff and make sure they could raise issues. Now they can ping him a message on Microsoft Teams at any time. If management is about sharing and moving information around, we therefore need to rethink management.

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“It came down to this: What is the minimum amount of effort I need to put in? What’s the best way to give my staff full control of something?” he asks. “Instead of trying to stop things from going wrong, I try to catch them when they do go wrong. Instead of tying everyone up in safety gear, I put up safety nets so that when they fall, it’s not a problem.”

Implementing hybrid work? Don’t let your employees pick which days to be out of office, experts argue

Seven ways to be a better conversationalist at work

Agata Nowakowska, an area vice-president at Skillsoft, also sees management in the digital age as different but stresses the interdependence of people as cross-functional activity grows. Like Mr. Casey, she sees the demise of command and control leadership. But she argues that must be replaced by connect and collaborate leadership. “In doing so, absolute authority has given way to the inclusive team efforts required to tackle complex problems. As a result, leaders must embrace the dynamic relationship networks that have replaced the familiar corporate pyramid,” she writes in Training Magazine.

Instead of lazy management she calls for something similar: Managed empowerment. The leader must foster an environment of shared purpose and trust, where team members feel confident to share ideas and take risks. Instead of setting out a predetermined direction for the team, the leader guides the development of a team context and interjects only when necessary. The benchmark of leadership success is no longer based on ensuring execution but empowering innovation.

So stop trying to control everything, stop thinking you know best, and stop talking over people, advises leadership coach Lolly Daskal. Six other dumb things she says you need to cease doing: Stop creating unattainable goals, stop taking people for granted, stop the hypocrisy of saying you’ll do something but not carrying through, stop imposing unnecessary rules, stop criticizing people in public, and stop trying to act alone.

Collaborate. Regularly take time to recognize people for doing good work, showing appreciation for their effort and commitment. When lapses occur, remind staff members failure is part of success.

She also urges you to stop trying to fix people. It rarely works, only pushing them away, breeding resentment, and coming across as controlling. “As cognitively advanced beings, most of our behaviours and beliefs are determined by habit – our everyday behaviour – and that’s not something that can be changed easily in a conversation,” she says. Leadership requires bonding with others, not telling them they aren’t good enough and need to be fixed.

It’s helpful to understand the difference between delegation and empowerment. Change consultant Julia Felton says while they both involve entrusting others to take on important roles in the business, empowerment is much more of a motivational strategy while delegation is more of a doing activity. “When team members are empowered, they are encouraged to take personal responsibility and make decisions based on the situation they find themselves in,” she explains.

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She suggests we see a continuum with delegation at one end, empowerment in the middle, and shared leadership at the other end. Delegation is task-focused with no decision-making capability and lots of control and monitoring. In empowerment, the team member has decision-making capability within an assigned framework and therefore less control is required. She describes shared leadership as when the team member and leader are jointly responsible for the task getting completed and work in a collaborative and co-operative way, each focusing on their own area of expertise.

Lazy leadership. Connect and collaborate leadership. Shared leadership. The differences can be fuzzy and how to accomplish them complicated. But each moves us away from command and control instincts in a technologically-connected era where people are better educated and less inclined to be submissive.

Cannonballs

  • As statues are tumbling and streets and schools being renamed because historical figures have come under question, beware your vetting procedures and safeguards are strong if you find yourself naming your building after someone or seeking a high-profile endorsement or celebrity for your marketing campaign.
  • One hundred per cent of managers fail, argues consultant Wally Block. Managers are humans and humans, without exception, have moments of failure. Try to minimize your failures through habits, processes, and checklists and the impact of those failures on others through planning and testing.
  • Managers with the highest status in an organization actually have the greatest risk of experiencing a spectacular failure, new research has found. One reason is that as people become star performers their proposals don’t get the same scrutiny as earlier proposals, making it easier for a bad idea to slip through. Also, they become sought after and stretched too thin, the researchers suggest.

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