How To Stop Doing And Start Managing Others

I like working. I like making lists, doing the tasks, and checking them off. As my organization grew, I needed to change from doing things myself to managing others to do things. This was a much harder transition than I expected. Here’s what I learned.

I know that the only way to multiply my results is to manage others to do the work. But, strangely, I had a difficult time not doing the work myself. It isn’t that I’m a perfectionist or control freak. I just like working!

I discovered a number of downsides to doing the work myself:

  • I don’t give others the experience they need to become experts in tasks.
  • I demotivate my workers, who interpret my doing as a lack of trust or respect for their capabilities.
  • I appear controlling or micromanaging to others.
  • I become the bottleneck to projects moving forward, because I need to do it.

My work-ethic, which has served me so well up to now, was blocking greater results. I had to stop doing and start managing others to do.

How To Stop Doing And Start Managing Others

Not doing the work yourself and managing others to do it takes a new set of skills and disciplines. Just as working became a habit, now you’ve got to develop some new habits. Here’s some best practices that have been successful for me.

1. You’re not the best person to do this task. The key to everything is to change your mindset. Say to yourself: I am not the best person to do this task. If you think you are, then you’ll do it. If you think other people can do it, you’ll let them. Other people, if given the chance, can do far more than you think they can.

2. Delegate clearly. Successful delegation means you’ve clarified things enough that they can do the task. It’s not just for them. When I’m vague about what I want done, I end up poking my nose back into things. I use 4 steps to delegate clearly:

  • Start with Why. Say why it’s necessary. Explain how this task fits with other things. Starting with why sets the task in context. At times, it may increase motivation. I know not saying why decreases motivation.
  • Describe objectives. Share what you expect to happen or be delivered. Be specific and make it measurable if possible. If you want a cover designed, what are the design parameters? Give an example, provide the text, etc. What file formats do you want the cover to be delivered in: pdf, jpeg, png?
  • Give budget and timeline. Clarify the budget for the project along with the authority to spend up to that amount. This is empowering. Also, set the timeline for when the objectives are to be completed.
  • Set check in points. When working with a new person or on a new task, I create a few points in the project where the person will check in with me. This is as important for me as it is for the other person. This process keeps me out of the work because I know he will check in with me at scheduled points. Create check-ins early to detect any misunderstanding or need for redirection.

3. Balance additional training with coaching. If the person has experience doing the task, don’t tell him how to do it. Instead, coach by asking what progress he’s making. The less familiar the person is with the task, the more you may need to show him how to do it. But again, ask first: Would you like me show you how I’ve done this in the past? More about this balance here: How To Choose When To Teach And When To Coach.

4. Capture SOPs for repetitive tasks. Standard Operating Procedures are detailed how-to instructions for doing complicated tasks. In my business we have more than 20 SOPs detailing how to do everything from publishing our newsletter to setting up new events. SOPs save a lot of time by documenting all the details of how to do the task next time. And if someone else needs to do the task, you’ve got the SOPs to guide them.

SOPs keep me out of the work. If there’s no SOP and the person can’t figure out how to do, then I jump in and show them. With an SOP they go there first, and 90% of the time figure it out without me. I created some of our SOPs, the rest were created by our team. This is 100% organizational capacity building. I highly recommend it.

My motivation to stop working and manage others instead is stewardship. If I do the work, I limit our impact to what I can get done. If I manage others to do, there’s no limit on the impact we can achieve together.

What are you willing to stop doing and start managing today?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is an author, speaker and Professional Certified Coach. He helps on-the-go leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. You own your comments but give me permission to use them. See My Comments Policy.

    Read my Permissions Policy to know how you can use my posts.

    • Bob Mac Leod

      I often read about leaders multiplying themselves by delegating. But… that assumes… there is someone to delegate to. I work in an administrative environment with very technical skills required. We have very high difficulty obtaining people to fill these roles. There is no budget for me to bring on people whom I can delegate to. A big challenge.

      • Bob, no budget and high skills required are a challenge. It took me a few years to build things to the place where we did have funds to hire someone part-time. Still it was a stretch. You may not have that freedom. Or perhaps it could be negotiated.

    • I am in the process of hiring a new VA and these points are very helpful. I am pulling together a 1-2 document to use in the interviewing process. Very helpful Keith.