You are here
Home > HEADLINES > Give talented people room to shine

Give talented people room to shine

Please follow and like us:

  • 0
  • Share

“God is in the details,” architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe liked to say, paraphrasing a sentiment first broached in the Old Testament. As Moses found out, God is also into details. His specifications for building the Tent of Meeting cover all sorts of minutiae, down to the altar utensils and the design of Aaron’s robe (“The opening for the head shall be in the middle of it”). Moses served as contractor for the construction of the Tent, Holy Ark, altars, sacramental garments, and vessels. He needed to find a crew that would do the job perfectly, to the standards of this most exacting client. Fortunately, he had an advantage most managers lack: God Himself told him whom to hire.

“See, I have singled out by name Bezalel…I have endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft; to make designs for work in gold, silver, and copper, to cut stones for setting and to carve wood.” God also assigned Bezalel an assistant, Oholiab, and a team of skilled craftsmen—to complete the project.

While we read extensive—even laborious—descriptions of exactly how each piece of the Ark must be constructed, there is no record of Moses demanding progress reports, hanging around the construction site to make sure everything was going according to plan, or even repeating his instructions to Bezalel. He knew he had the right person for the job, and he allowed him to do his job without interference.

Wise managers know that talents such as Bezalel do their best work when they are given creative space and are not expected to justify every decision. One of the myths that Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus dispel is that “the leader controls, directs, prods, manipulates. This is perhaps the most damaging myth of all.” Bennis stresses time and again that leadership is not so much the exercise of power itself as the empowerment of others. Nathaniel Branden echoes this belief in his book, “Self-Esteem at Work.” “Aim your people—and get out of the way,” he writes. “Let them know you are available if needed but do not impose your presence or involvement gratuitously. Remember your business is to inspire, coach, and facilitate…Remember that the measure of your success is their creative self-assertiveness.”

Even the savviest manager can forget this fundamental rule and micromanage his or her staff to distraction. An entertainment attorney told a story about how one of the industry’s most brilliant innovators fell into the micromanagement trap when he was president of a fledging television network. A client of the attorney was premiering the first show on the network, but progress was dragging because the CEO hadn’t yet approved the look of the set. The pressure was enormous, as all eyes were on the man who had dared to compete with the other networks. Finally, the attorney arranged to meet the CEO for lunch at the studio commissary. While they were eating, he reached into his briefcase and pulled out a swatch of carpeting and one of drapery fabric.

“Listen, I have a question for you,” he told the CEO. “My wife and I are redecorating our living room. I want to know if you think this carpeting goes with this drape.” “You are accusing me of micromanaging, aren’t you?” the CEO responded, and that was the end of it. By throwing a little humor into the situation, the attorney was able to convince the CEO to step back long enough for the show to proceed.

A great number of leaders fall prey to the temptation to micromanage, even though they know it can be counterproductive. Trust has much to do with this urge. If you trust that your employees share your commitment and vision, you are more likely to give them the room they need to shine. Moses could trust Bezalel because God had commanded him. Today’s managers do not have the luxury of an Almighty seal of approval, but some have found that the trust equation works in the reverse: the more room you give your employees, the more likely they are to share and promote your vision.

One of the most oft-repeated success stories is the invention of the Post-it note by 3M scientist Art Fry. Mr. Fry did not invent the adhesive used on the Post-it, and he did not invent the paper, but he did put the two together. His inspiration for post Post-it notes dates back to the early 1970s, when he sang in his church choir and used scraps of paper to mark selections in his hymnal. Unfortunately, the paper kept falling out and he’d often lose his place. “I needed a bookmark that would stay put, yet could easily be removed without damaging my hymnal,” Fry recalls.

Around the time Art Fry was thinking about how to make more cooperative bookmarks, his colleague Dr. Spencer Silver was doing basic research on adhesives! He’d come up with a low-tack adhesive that stuck lightly to many surfaces, yet remained sticky even after you repositioned it. Fry soon realized Spencer’s adhesive was perfect for his needs. He applied some of the adhesive to the edge of a piece of paper, and voila: a removable, reusable bookmark that would not fall out.

Not long afterward, Fry realized his invention’s full potential. He brought the idea to 3M’s management, who provided him with a research team. Eighteen months later, they were ready to show samples to the marketing department. The rest of the Post-it note story is history. What’s not so widely known is that Art Fry’s discovery was not entirely a lucky fluke. It was also the natural outcome of a 3M policy that encourages scientists to spend up to fifteen percent of their time working on projects they hold dear. Without the time and support to pursue his sticky bookmark, Art Fry’s idea might have remained just that. The fifteen-percent policy has served 3M well, helping to foster other breakthrough products such as scotch tape.

Would it have helped Art Fry to have management peering over his shoulder at every turn? Probably not. Sherry Lansing, “I don’t believe in micro-managing. Once I have green-lit a project, I trust the film-makers and producers to do their jobs.” Like Moses, the managers at 3M and Ms Lansing did know enough to give talented people the materials and personnel they needed, and then kept out of their way. Remember, it is a great error in either leadership or management to delegate an assignment to a people without keeping out of their way.

See you where great leaders are found!

The post Give talented people room to shine appeared first on Tribune.

Facebook Comments

Please follow and like us:

  • 0
  • Share

Leave a Reply