One of the most prevalent things about many leaders is they make sure things get done. That is usually why they have risen to a position of leadership. It can be that they have been diligent in tasks when they were a level or two below where they are right now. Perhaps it’s that they were able to rally people around a common cause and a greater purpose was accomplished. Whatever the form, the end result is the same.
There is another instance in which a leader may make sure things are getting done, but it actually hurts the process and destroys morale. As leaders, we have a tendency to gravitate to where things need attention. If there is a lack or a gap in the process, we feel it’s our duty to step in and “make it happen”. We do this and either believe we are just being a supportive leader or (for the more narcissistic crowd) secretly pat ourselves on the back for being proactive.
Nothing too terribly wrong with all this except you are forgetting one important question. Why do I have to fill this gap?
Here are a few reasons for why the gap exists and some suggestions for how to close it.
- Systemic issues – Sometimes there is a flaw in how a process is designed or structured. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault, so no need to begin a witch hunt. Simply look for where the gap begins and where it ends. Is it a silo issue? Perhaps it’s a communication problem. There are a number of ways this can happen. The key is to have candid dialogue with everyone involved and ask for suggestions. Maybe others knew about it and thought no one would listen because it was “just the way things are”.
- Improper delegation – No leader is worth their salt if they’re not delegating. It’s good to know what and when to delegate, but it’s equally important to know to whom you should delegate. There are some get-ahead people who are willing to learn and grow, but sometimes they are under resourced through skills or experience. Know when the gap exists from this dearth of skills and manage it appropriately. Not knowing this can create a gap that defeats the whole point of delegating because you are constantly filling it!
- Talent misalignment – In today’s streamlined environment, people can be asked to fulfill roles that may be outside their normal purview. In the hopes of “re-purposing” existing talent, a gap is created and productivity drops. This is hurting one set of numbers by trying to help another set. Have an honest conversation with your direct report and the HR manager. This can be a difficult case, but it HAS to be made or you will be marginally effective due to excessive involvement in tasks.
- Poor performance – This is based primarily in someone’s willful choice to simply not do their job. The danger is when this person flatters the leader about their leadership when they have to fill the gap in order to continue sub-par performance. If you’re a leader who chases a bit of affirmation (and you know if you are or not), this could be a huge problem for you. All performance issues MUST be addressed immediately. Coach where appropriate. Fire where appropriate. This is Pandora’s Box for leadership, so manage it diligently!