Some thoughts on management

Here’s some advice for egomaniacal managers like me: Shut up and listen sometimes.

Every day, people come into my office asking for help solving complex problems. The problems are by definition complex, because if they were simple, no one would bother me with them.

For a long time, I would listen to the problem, think for a second, and then fire off a solution.

I don’t do that any more, because it’s dumb.

Why is it dumb? Because I rarely know as much about the problem as the person who is getting her hands dirty trying to solve it.

Do you know what I do now? I just say “How do you think we should solve it?”

Obviously, sometimes I need to veto the proposed solution and come up with a different one. But, the vast majority of the time, the solution proposed is totally acceptable.

That’s great, because it saves me the effort of inventing my own solution, which may be better (because I’m more experienced) but will probably be worse (because I lack context).

And, by forcing my colleagues to come up with their own solutions, I’m teaching them to solve more and more complex problems on their own, freeing my time up for the highest value issues.