Don’t be a Helicopter Manager – Learn to let go

It won’t be much longer and college freshman will be invading campuses across the country to take the world by storm. Move in day feature plenty of moving boxes, futons, junk food, and emotional parents.

Fashion styles may change every year and college football teams go from losing to winning records, but one thing remains the same – empty nest syndrome. Many parents are devastated by their child’s sudden adulthood and have a hard time letting go. Some managers also have a difficult time letting go in the workplace.

Regardless of tenure, some managers are at a lost when it comes to delegation. The ability to delegate requires more than simply assigning responsibility and tasks. Managers need to know the extent to which others can handle these assignments and also their own tolerance for mistakes that go along with independent work. Too much delegation is called “permissiveness”. However, too little delegation keeps others dependent on managers and that can also be overdone.

Controlling is another managerial function just like planning,organizing, and directing. Control is important because it can help check errors and to take the corrective action so that deviation from standards are minimized. It helps set performance standards and ensures work requirements are carried out according to the company’s guidelines.

Still, many managers are perceived as being too controlling, or not adequately trusting others to take responsibility for their work. These types of managers may appear condescending and disrespectful of team members’ levels of expertise. They may thrive on micro-managing or feel threatened by the loss of control that is a normal part of the delegation process.

Remember that leaders must generate ideas for change and recognize and use the good ideas generated by others. The key word in that sentence is others. Managers need to use goals, plans, skill sets, and resources as the foundation for delegating tasks to their team. You must trust team members to plan and complete their assigned tasks. Team members are likely to appreciate this trust and perform accordingly.

If you don’t want to be the “helicopter” manager and hold your people back, here are some tips to remember:

  • When assigning responsibility, consider which tasks you could serve as back-up instead of lead; which tasks could be assumed by a group member under a manager’s close direction; and whether there are other factors that prevent delegation.
  • Delegate each task and describe the expected result (i.e., success, acceptable performance, unacceptable performance) to the person assigned. Then ask the assigned staff member to develop an action plan.
  • Note the strengths, weaknesses and work preferences of your staff. Note the type of assignments best suited to each team member. Use this information when you delegate tasks.
  • Consider your team members as collaborators rather than subordinates. Use each person’s skills to create a shared outcome. Make team members responsible to each other for performance.

It can hard to let your employees take the reins of the project, just like it’s difficult for parents to watch their kids take the next leap in life, but we all have to learn to let go, even managers.

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2 Comments

  • Karl Duff says:

    Agree with many points here and love the analogy of the helicopter manager, we’ve all had one of them! As a manager your peoples’ development is your responsibility, and how they develop reflects your ability to manage. Delegate everything to find your successor.

  • Nicole Stadt says:

    You’re right being as a manager you should know the responsibility and give all your capacity in doing task to organize the development that you are holding.

    nicolestadt