Are You A Helicopter Manager?

As I sit at home sick, away from the office, for the second day in a row, I’m reminded of just how important it is to delegate, and delegate well. We’ve all heard the pop culture term “helicopter parenting”, and as I’ve come to understand it, it’s the parent that loves to swoop in and help (all the time) when they witness their child in everyday struggle. Let’s turn that definition on management. Are you the manager that swoops in and rescues others from their responsibilities instead of letting them suss out the solutions on their own? There’s a fine line between supporting a fellow employee and taking over, so let’s explore a few ways to avoid being coined the “micro manager.”

Let’s face it, sometimes people need help, they need a manager or someone to step in and guide, assist, support, etc. As a manager, it’s important to know how best to support someone without taking away responsibilities or overstepping. When you “rescue”, you take away agency and accountability and make it even harder for this person to ask for help in the future. Or worse, you’ve just created a dynamic where this person will now rely on asking you to do the things that they might find challenging instead of trying to be curious about their own solutions. How to know when you’re rescuing:

  • You’re directly handling a task that is not within your job description. (Not sure what your job description is? Ask your HR dept or manager, any good company should be giving you a concise job description!)
  • You’re noticing a pattern of taking over for others. You might catch yourself saying, “I can do it faster or better, so I’ll just do it myself.”
  • You’re trying to fix or give advice. If you’re doing more talking than the person who came to you asking for the help, it’s time to pause.

Did you notice yourself identifying with any of the rescue manager traits? Not to worry, there is a better way. Here are a few tips for polishing your management presence and not going into “fixer mode”:

  1. Have a clear understanding of both your own and others job descriptions within your organization. If you feel further clarity is needed, advocate for that and create open ended conversations to solidify growth and responsibilities.
  2. Be aware of your own patterns. Stay curious, mindful, and non judgmental when you notice yourself slipping into a “I can do this better than they can” attitude. Pause, and wait before you jump in to help. Ask yourself, might another response be available to me in this moment? Consider journaling your challenges/patterns as they come up.
  3. Notice what’s happening and what the context is when you want to “fix”. Check in with the person, clarify their needs and directly ask questions if needed, but mostly just LISTEN. Listening to someone actively, giving them your direct attention and using open body language will help support more empathetic and positive communication.

I hope these quick tips will help you be a more present and engaged manager! When we try to rescue others instead of supporting we also deplete our own ability to show up in a more meaningful way, so it’s important to be aware of our patterns so we can make positive moves going forward.

Interested in learning more simple tips or ways to integrate Emotional Intelligence into your everyday work and/or personal life? I would love to talk with you!

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