Get better at doing nothing

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

The most successful leaders delegate almost all their regular work to their staff, which allows them to facilitate and orchestrate everyone else’s performance.

So says author J. Keith Murnighan. “Most leaders do too much,” Murnighan says. “And when they do, they’re seen as micromanagers.”

Rather than overmanaging, leaders ought to be decision-making, negotiating and team-building. Those “really are the essence of leadership.”

In his classes at the Kellogg School, Murnighan often asks his students, “What would it be like if all of your team members were living up to their potential?” Then he says, “Why don’t you just help them do that? All you have to do is orchestrate a bit and facilitate.”

But “doing nothing” is hard for people who have risen through the ranks for their ability “to do.” Two ways to get better at it:

1. Learn more about team members. Find out “exactly how competent they are and what they have been currently working on.” Next, ask employees to do more. “Not a lot more, but a bit more,” he writes.

2. Walk the floor. Ask people, “How are you?” and “Is there anything I can do to make your job easier?” A leader can “help people succeed in what they are doing.”

The benefit of all this doing less? You’ll have more time to plan for the future. Team members will be more satisfied, and they’ll reveal skills you didn’t know they had.

— Adapted from “Do Less,” Kellogg Insight.

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