Increased Success Through Letting Go: Managing at Your Own Level

managing at your levelDo you ever find yourself doing the job of the manager below you?

Have you been known to take over tasks assigned to your team members?

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.

The tendency to manage at one level too low is very common, and it happens with managers at every level working in all kinds of organizations.

Wanting to jump in and take over lower-level work is completely understandable. After all, managers are usually promoted because they are good at their jobs.

However, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for leaders to keep up with their managerial responsibilities when they are sweating the details and trying to do other people’s jobs.

It is critically important for managers to make a focused effort to manage at their own level. Simply put, a manager needs to do his or her job and trust other managers and team members to do theirs. 

Managers who struggle with managing at their level often demonstrate the following behaviors: 

  • Lack personal discipline
  • Resist delegating
  • Correct tiny details instead of looking at the big picture
  • Discourage or prevent others from making—and taking responsibility for—decisions
  • Hoard tasks or responsibilities that could provide potential development opportunities for others
  • Step in and complete or take over the work of other team members 

Many of us have encountered this kind of manager at one time or another. Some of us have been that manager. When there are quotas to fill and deadlines to meet, it is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day operational details.

Sometimes managers will jump in and complete someone else’s tasks or make a decision thinking that they can accomplish the work faster or better. But when managers act like this and fail to manage at their own level, it can cause a lot of problems—not the least of which is being distracted and taking time away from important leadership responsibilities.

They may think that they are helping, when in fact, their actions can actually reduce productivity and negatively affect team morale. 

It is easy to understand why managers need to manage at their own level, but what does that look like? Where should you start? Here are a few actions you can take that will help you avoid managing a level down:

1. Develop a clear understanding of your roles and the work that you are accountable for completing.

  • What are your responsibilities?
  • Are any of your responsibilities related to others tasks or responsibilities?
  • Do you have any responsibilities or goals that you share with others?

2. Prioritize your activities so that you can assign tasks and responsibilities to others. Delegate with success in mind.

3. Empower others and set the stage for their long-term success by allowing them to make decisions, do their own work, make mistakes, deal with the consequences, and learn from their experiences.

4. Show others that you trust them by holding them accountable for their responsibilities without micromanaging their work.

5. Demonstrate personal accountability by taking ownership of your actions and fulfilling your responsibilities.

6. Communicate the expected outcomes clearly, and encourage team members to take initiative and unleash their creativity to achieve success.

In the modern world, it is essential for managers to consciously focus on managing at their level. Those who do experience greater success, inspire trust and respect, and motivate those around them—all of which benefits the entire organization.

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About the Author

Cyndi Keller

Cyndi Keller is the Director of Curriculum Design & Development at CMOE. She brings over 20 years of communication project management experience to the Design Team and CMOE clients. She works with the Design Team to guide the design, development, and production of innovative learning and development curriculum.