All of us know that person. The person who is either really gifted and knows everything, or is a perfectionist and has to have things just so… Or perhaps they just want to help wherever they can. Regardless, the item needing attention is being handled by someone other than the real responsible party. “We are a team,” or “Everyone chips in.” Does that sound familiar? However, in this scenario, the team is set up for failure and frustration. Even more likely, both!
Let’s clarify a bit; there are different outcomes for different situations. There is nothing wrong with getting into the weeds with our teams; in fact, we should get involved in day-to-day operations, regardless of our level. By doing this we show our teams that we value the work they do. It does take everyone to make it (whatever it is) happen. From the janitor to the CEO, everyone has a role to play, and everyone has their own responsibilities. However, helping out is different than imposing help to compensate for gaps in the process. Stepping in when something is not being done can undercut the credibility of the team leader; can disrupt processes even further; can result in mid-level management who aren’t equipped to handle the responsibilities given to them.
There are a couple scenarios that could be going on here. Helping out or imposing help could happen in a number of ways. Let us consider a common situation: the team is short handed. The perfect storm has blown the ship ashore and the team is falling behind. In this scenario, an effective top-level manager would step in and help out. Get in the weeds and win the day with the team. Help the team get back on track. If you can offer help in the moment such as getting help for the team, then do it. After everything settles it would also be appropriate to gather the team and hold a debrief meeting: observe and evaluate what actually happened. Did we need a different staff? Different tools? Take notes and make a plan for the inevitable “next time.”
The purpose of this article is not to examine the perfect storm or the special case where things just didn’t go as planned. The focus here is more for the manager, supervisor, lead (etc.) that comes along and sees something awry. Many times, this individual simply fixes the item. The ship continues to sail. The next time it happens, he or she fixes the item again. This pattern repeats itself many times over and at some point, someone will get frustrated with the situation. In this situation, problems can wind up disappearing from the team’s view. Like magic, when X issue arises, it just takes care of itself. Some gnomes correct the problem or … well the team doesn’t really know or concern themselves with who … it just happens. I have observed this cycle over and over again. The result is a seemingly incompetent team and a frustrated manager.
There may be a few different solutions to this. It could be training. Perhaps it is something that the team has not dealt with yet – and the person doing it has weathered that storm. (A lot of storm analogies going on here.) The ideal solution would be to set the expectations. If you are the person fixing whatever the issue is, get the right team members involved and show them Explain the importance of the… If you are an observer, get the person who is always stepping in to explain why he or she is doing the task. Document that knowledge into some lesson or gather the team for some real-time training. Regardless, we are finding the what, the why and working on the who.
The goal shouldn’t be to prove anyone right or wrong. It should not be to point fingers. It should be to unify everyone with expectations and the reasons why we do what we do. If you have already completed these steps, then that is another issue and additional coaching opportunities may be needed.
Categories: Business: General