Don't tell me what to do

Eat your broccoli!”, “Clean your room!”, “Brush your teeth!” Sounds familiar? It’s the tune of the past, when your parents controlled each and every aspect of your life. With the exception of toilet use, perhaps. For many people however, the past lives on. Parents turned into line managers, while kids remained kids, but with fancy titles: Senior Software Engineer, Enterprise Architect, etc. “Send that e-mail”, “call that guy”, “re-estimate that plan.” Smart managers turn orders into questions: “can you send that e-mail, please?” Sure, boss.

Parents order their offspring around assuming that children don’t have the required knowledge and experience to decide what to do, when and how. Many managers think along the same lines: if I don’t tell them what to do they’ll surely do it wrong. Great intentions with lousy results:

  • makes the employees unhappy - after all they went through a whole recruitment process, assessment centers and whatnot, emerged victoriously from among a dozen brilliant candidates, just to be treated like 3-year-olds.
  • makes for ineffective work - even if employees really do make mistakes, they can learn better only by seeing them for themselves. Any direct micromanagement will sabotage the learning process, causing the same situations to repeat over and over again.

A manager is not super-human. He makes mistakes just like any other bloke and there’s absolutely no guarantee that his procedures and decisions are in any way more effective than anyone else’s. Managers are there to set goals and provide their subordinates with resources to move forward as they see fit. Any other form of management is just a waste of brainpower.

I make software. And other things. Mostly in Warsaw, Poland, from wherever there’s an Internet connection, power outlet and fresh coffee. I love to read and learn how the world works. You should follow me at @mpaluchowski.

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