Avoid Becoming Indispensable

It is important not to allow yourself to become indispensable. Some managers trap themselves into this kind of situation. In their effort to ensure the quality of work, they request that all difficult questions and decisions be referred to them. It doesn’t take long for employees to figure out that anything out of the ordinary will soon be going to the boss. The time taken from your day is not the only problem. The more fundamental trouble is that your people soon stop trying to work out more complex problems by themselves.

It’s important that your people be encouraged to find answers on their own. They’ll be better employees for it. There are limits, of course, to the areas of responsibility that can be delegated to them. It’s good management to allow staff members some responsibility while still assuring them that the executive is accountable for their performance.

You’ve heard people worrying about whether the company would get along without them while they’re on vacation. They have it backward: Their real worry is that the company will get along just fine without them. The manager who is doing the right kind of job in developing employees and backup management can leave with the assurance that the department will function smoothly in her absence.

The truly efficient and dedicated executive, indeed, has progressed to the point where she can even be gone permanently—to a promotion or to another company. There are managers who, in a misguided view of what their job requires, make themselves indispensable and spend the rest of their business careers proving it—by never being moved from that position.

The main problem with such people is that they don’t understand what the job of management is about.

Management isn’t doing—it’s seeing that it gets done.

How Indispensable Was Your Predecessor?

It helps a great deal if your predecessor in the job was a real disaster who left the place in a shambles. Unless you’re a complete loser, you’ll look like a champion by comparison. Sadly, that is preferable to stepping into a smooth-running operation. Following a company hero who is retiring or was promoted to a higher level position at another organization is difficult because no matter how well you perform, it’s tough to be compared with a hero and the legend that time bestows upon him.

So if you ever have a choice between moving into an area of chaos or assuming a nice, clean operation, go with the disaster. It could be a great opportunity to establish a reputation that will stay with you your entire career. You’ll not regret it and you will likely learn more from the experience.

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