Are You A Super Computer?
Steven Cesare, Ph.D.
An enlightened business owner from Minnesota called me the other day to talk about the wide-ranging roles she fills each day. To wit: The business owner performs many executive tasks like focusing on aligning internal systems to promote efficiency, serving as the champion of the organization’s brand by participating in community groups to extend the company’s partnership network, and constantly considering value-added change initiatives to improve the company culture, work environment, and employee well-being.
She also completes varied managerial tasks like ensuring material deliveries are made on time, tracking the work schedule to verify employee attendance, and attending a never-ending sequence of meetings to catalyze and monitor progress on projects reliant on inter-departmental communication.
Lamentably, an increasingly large proportion of her day is consumed by her allowing herself to be drawn into administrivia, operational tactics, and procedural inanity. These examples include responding to: employees’ requests about where to display the newly-delivered plants in the retail center, what questions should be included as part of the entry-level crew member selection interview protocol, and approving ad-hoc requests from employees to work at home tomorrow because the employee’s child is home from school.
When presented with this assorted survey of responsibilities, I asked the business owner “Are you a super computer?” I could hear her eyes blink twice over the phone, as she pressed it closer to her now-receptive ear. Intelligent by trait, inquisitive by state, the business owner replied, “what do you mean, Steve?”
I proceeded to elaborate accordingly, as ego-gratifying as it may be, the business owner had unconsciously centralized the entire decision-making locus onto herself, to the point that she was now a single point of failure, being the sole answer source for every question in the company. With that mindset, can she really take a peaceful two-week vacation with her family and unplug, refresh, and enjoy?
Oh, by the way, can you say burnout?
Next, her unchallenged confidence inexorably robbed her subordinates of their chance to make even basic decisions by usurping their input, necessarily negating their ability to evaluate their own decision-making efficacy, ultimately depriving them of self-induced professional feedback and development.
As a capitalist, I suggested she diversify her value by discussing, engaging, and mentoring her employees, by not answering every tactical question directed her way. Instead, she must invert the vertical roles by asking the employees their opinion, and then evaluate their answer in light of the company’s business goals (e.g., revenue generation, plant quality, customer service, safety). Then watch the employees’ eyes widen in appreciation as the owner invests wisdom into their decision-making awareness, in place of that blank Stepford-wife stare from the employees, as they robotically obey the owner’s unilateral dictum.
Every business owner’s primary role is as a coach, focused on broadening and fortifying employees’ skill sets to reach a goal; not to be a single point of failure, not to be the know it all, not to be a super computer.
Instead of being a super computer having every self-righteous answer, pivot, pause, and prompt your employees to propose their recommendations for the question they are asking of you, examine their understanding of the antecedent issues at hand in light of a business goal, and coach them to improvement.
You’re not a super computer. Trust me: You’re not! So, stop acting like one. You’re more like a computer server, providing energy, information, and services to numerous end users, making them more productive.
With that coaching mindset, it will be a lot easier to plan, take, and enjoy your two-week vacation.
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