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Get Out of the Weeds to Lead People

Overemphasis on the details of the work at hand, while leaving people to struggle on their own doesn’t lend itself to leadership success.

Many employees are promoted into  management positions because their knowledge and expertise have made them successful in the work they do. The problem is that a management position doesn’t always fit their passion. People managers have to lead people, and not everyone is motivated to do that.

At some point, if a manager doesn’t step into leadership, they can hit a brick wall. Their love of the work itself might cause them to spend an inordinate amount of time getting involved in the minutiae of daily work. Overemphasis on the details of the work at hand, while leaving people to struggle on their own doesn’t lend itself to leadership success.

If you are one of those who is thinking about taking on a management position when your heart is in the work itself and not leadership, you might need to rethink whether being a manager is right for you. Should you be curious about what your employees need and you are motivated enough to learn, consider the following:

Relationships. It’s natural that your employees would want to get to know you as a person. After all, relationships are essential in the workplace just as they are everywhere else. The side benefit to you is that when you connect to people, you enable your ability to influence them and make an impact.

Care. The people who work for you want to know that you care about them. They can’t see that if you continue to get involved in micromanaging the daily work they do. All they see is meddling, when they need to see you as a caring leader.

Guidance. Your employees want guidance without your interference in the weeds of their work. Letting go of the overemphasis on the small details frees up your time to guide them at a higher level while making them feel confident that they’re on the right track.

Vision. Having a vision and communicating it to your employees gives them something to aim for. Begin talking about what can be every bit as much as what is. Your positive vision of the future is what they need to target and work toward. A hopeful and uplifting message, sprinkled with hard truths when needed is what everyone craves.

Development. Many of the people you lead will want to get ready for their own next step. What are you doing to help them to get clarity about their own future in the organization? Many leaders love helping people to develop and grow, and employees also want this kind of mentoring from their leaders.

Staying in the weeds of daily work isn’t leadership. A leader will step out of those weeds and help others in a way that makes them feel they are valued and doing something meaningful.

Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and a former corporate executive who has spent the past 16 years as president of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC.