Organizations usually have some sort of reporting structure. That can vary based on the size or maybe the model that is being used. Typically an individual contributor reports to a supervisor or manager who then reports to a manager or director (and so on). Much like a pyramid there are more people at the bottom and less as you climb to the top; one director has two manager who each have three reports etc. While I do believe that no one is more important – the responsibilities tend to change with the hierarchy. On the front lines much of the work is hands on with day-to-day in mind. As roles change to manager (etc.) focus shifts from day to week to year; tactical to strategy. One would normally expect this sort of management. Communication passes up and down the ranks and each role performs their piece to allow the plan to come to life. When done right it can be a breeding ground for future managers as well as various other promotions. For the sake of this post, let’s call it “managing up a level.” Inside of this up one level mentality it would be common to see empowerment, stretch goals, grooming opportunities as well as overlapping responsibilities. The work looks like a Venn Diagram; each circle is clear and distinct but shared at points. In this model people are supportive of each other as well as weave a strong braid.
Yet, inside this structure a counter culture can lurk; hard to detect afar but extremely noticeable from the inside. This decay of the system creates a pull downward; or managing “down a level.” Each tier of the organization is not capable or does not complete tasks (for whatever reason). Leads perform non-lead work and supervisors spend the days working inside of fires vs. planning and improving processes. Instead of roles being empowered they tend to request affirmation at every transaction. Often, Peter’s Principle is at work. The great lead does not make a great manager does not make a great director and so on. Every role works one level(+) down to compensate for responsibilities. While doing this each position effectively (or ineffectively) performs subordinate work and ineffectively performing his or her own work. The time and energy that was once spent in grooming, or growing people, is used to micromanage, draw and redraw boundaries. It probably feels more like chaos and striving to keep the ship afloat or train on the track…
If you suspect that you are in a managing downward situation, stop, and reflect. What led to this point and what can you do to change the culture? It did not happen over night so do not expect to flip some switch or change directions midstream with no ripple effect. It is the right thing to do – to step back – and start to empower your team. However, it is not the “norm” depending on how long the culture has been in place and like anything previously set, will take time to change. You can start by setting a plan into place which includes stretch goals and empowering/ownership expectations. The key is that you did notice and are taking action.
Hope the week is treating you well.