Good leaders sit at their desks

Many managers I meet are running from meeting to meeting, and then work late nights to finish all their work. They rarely have time to think and work strategically with their organization. And many have little time for the people they are leading. A leader should not micromanage and be part of every detail of their organization. Their job is to be available when their colleagues need to talk through a problem or make the decisions others can not.

Some of the best managers I have worked with are the ones that spend a lot of their time behind their desks. When people go looking for them, they get surprised that they are not there. The best leaders are the ones that people talk to.

Why do we have managers?

The science of group development is quite clear on this, well-functioning teams need
* A clear and common goal
* Clear roles
* A structure that enables collaboration

Goals, roles, and structure are not fixed entities and they continuously need to be changed and clarified depending on what is happening. A good leader needs to continuously listen and see when one of these are not working anymore. And then act. If the organization has a clear goal, and the roles and structure are aligned to move towards that goal then the leader’s job is to give feedback and coaching on this.

Two decisions

The two decisions a manager needs to make is when
* People feel that they don’t know what to do to best fulfill the goal. If this always happens it means that you don’t have a clear goal.
* The goal needs to change because the rest of the world has changed.

And then help the organization improve the roles and structure to better achieve the new goal.

The best way to make these types of decisions, respond to change, and know what is actually happening in the organization is to be at your desk and in the coffee room talking to people. So you have an overview and the extra capacity when the shit hits the fan. This will also give you the time and input to create a clear strategy and vision for your team, department, and organization.

Relax to get things done

Many years ago I practiced Aikido, and I still remember one session where I was trying one of the basic techniques with one of the black belts. No matter what I did she just stood there, and I couldn’t get her to move at all. I pushed and strained and put all my strength into it, and she calmly stood there. Then she said: “Try relaxing your arm, if you tense all your muscles then your muscles are working against one another and you can’t do the technique properly and you don’t have any strength left to use. You need to be relaxed to move.” I then relaxed, tried the technique again, and she fell. I’m still not sure if she made it really easy for me, or if I managed to do the technique properly, but the lesson stuck with me.

We are much stronger when we are relaxed and have extra capacity. If we push ourselves to our limits and don’t have any time to think then our actions will be very short term and weak. Long term and sustainable change come from having extra energy and time.

How much time do you spend at your desk every day?

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