Learning to lead by not getting in the way of your team

Principal consultant

This highly skilled technical consultant and manager worked on the customer’s site with his project implementation team. He was the central point of contact for all issues, which while reassuring for the customer was frustrating for him as he couldn’t find time to fulfil his management duties. Additionally he was a bottleneck, with everyone having to wait in line until he could deal with their query, which slowed down response rates for resolving customer problems.

The manager wanted to take a step back, trust people to do a good job and monitor what was being done. He knew micromanagement was an issue for him and he had been trying to extend his delegation skills for 15 years but now he wanted his team to become the main point of contact for the customer.

By adapting his coaching skills he quietly began to put his plan into action. He began asking the team questions to help them think through problems and come up with some options for moving forwards. He is now able to refer customer issues directly to one of his team to deal with. He said:

It is a little thing and it has had a big and positive impact. It gives the guys accountability to do something and I will be there if they need me.

Furthermore, he encouraged the team to use each other as a resource and to work out problems together rather than waiting to escalate it. By encouraging them to think for themselves, the team felt more engaged and involved in the tasks, which had a beneficial impact on motivation.

Identifying high potentials in the team was also important – there is a real shortage of senior technical staff in the company, so developing his people has been a great benefit. The team has a wider skill set and capability, they are now better equipped to work on different projects with more responsibility than before and there is less reliance on the same few individuals to take on increasingly challenging work from the customer. As for the customer, they know the team members and engage with them better. They also recognize the valuable contribution team members make, which helps the manager justify their professional rates.

Having freed up some of his time, the manager was able to undertake senior technical work and be the manager. Additionally, he used his newly gained people skills to support valuable pre-sales work to help the company win more business. He also reported a better work / life balance, where he works fewer hours but both he and his team get more done, and make a far greater contribution to achieving company goals than before his programme.