Most of us tend to think of the people with whom we work or who report to us in one-dimensional terms:"John Brown is a production supervisor" ... "Mary White is a personnel specialist." But many firms are discovering that there is a multitude of untapped talents scattered among their workers. Just because an individual was hired to fill one job, doesn't mean that is all he or she is capable of doing. When you take a new look at your employees, ask yourself:
What are their major talents?
What are their major achievements?
What have they learned since they've been on their current jobs?
What new skills have they acquired on the job, via outside courses, special training, etc.?
What would they like to see changed about the way things are done now?
What are their personal goals, aspirations, ambitions?
Who knows, you might unearth, in your own backyard, a gem to fill a long-vacant spot in another department or division.
Among the most subtle time-wasters that eat into a supervisor's workday is the phenomenon known as "reverse delegation"—delegation upward from subordinates.
Employees seek answers and decisions from their bosses for a variety of reasons. They may lack confidence in their own judgment. They may fear making a mistake and incurring criticism. They may want to avoid risk at all costs.
They may lack the requisite information, experience or resources to accomplish the job successfully. They may be plain lazy. Or they may have discovered that they can take advantage of the boss.
Reverse delegation happens to supervisors daily at every level and in every type of business. Chances are that few, if any, of its victims are consciously aware of why time seems to fly for them.
One supervisor who suddenly realized that all his people invariably left for home before he did analyzed his situation and came up with this simple solution. When subordinates solicit his decision on some matter now, his standard response—with due recognition of legitimate exceptions—is, "You have a problem, all right. What are you going to do about it?" Instead of a source of information, he has transformed himself into an interrogator.
"After all," he explains, "there are eight of them and only one of me. Why shouldn't they accept the responsibility of thinking problems through?"
He gets home a lot earlier these days.
Most management experts agree that the optimum number of employees per manager is less than ten. Rules of thumb are handy, but broader averages can and are being used today. Several factors affect the number of people you can effectively manage: geographic dispersion, employee competence, the complexity of the work. If morale and motivation are poor, consider the possibility that you are simply spreading yourself too thin.
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