Can You Do More By Giving Up Control?

It's not easy, but sometimes letting go lets you do more
It’s not easy, but sometimes letting go lets you do more

Image Credit: David Goehring

Most of us who have become IT managers did it by first being IT workers. While we held the jobs that got us here, we learned an important lesson. That lesson was that if we wanted something done right, then we really needed to do it ourselves. Once we become IT managers, even though we now have IT manager skills things didn’t really change. We still ended up getting our hands dirty when something really had to be done the right way. Perhaps this is not the right way to be doing things…

Is It Really All About You?

So just exactly why do we think that the world revolves around us? I don’t know about you, but I believe that the reason that I thought that this was true was because I had shown it to be correct. Even after I became an IT manager and had a team of smart, bright folks assigned to me, I continued to think that I was the only one who could do certain tasks correctly. None of my IT manager training had taught me any differently.

However, that might have been the case when I was a member of the team, but when I was picked to lead the team, things changed. As an IT manager I had less time to do the things that I had been doing before. What this meant was that my days were now being spent making lots and lots of decisions about my team. The net result of all of this time that was spent making decisions was that I ended up not having enough time to really focus on any one thing for very long. This is when the problems started to show up.

This is when I had to take a step back and evaluate how I was performing my job. It turns out that I was probably holding my team back by continuing to do the tasks that I had always done. There really was no good reason for this – I was doing them because I had always done them.

How Big Should You Go?

It had become clear that I needed to hand off some of the things that I had been doing. This was not an easy decision for me to reach. Once I had made the decision to let things go, I needed to make another decision: just exactly how much should I let go?

As you can probably guess, I had a couple of different ways that I could go about relinquishing control. I could gradually give up bits and pieces of what I had been doing or I could go all in and just dump it all at once. The easy answer was to do it gradually, the hard answer was to take the leap and drop everything.

In the end, I did the hard thing and gave it all away in one fell swoop. The reason that I chose to do it this way is because innovation is what my IT team is all about. I needed to task another member of my team with the complete responsibility for performing a task and let them find ways to make it better. If I had given it away bit-by-bit then they probably would have just ended up doing it the way that I do it today.

What All Of This Means For You?

Becoming an IT manager is all about change and if there is one thing that most of us don’t really like, it’s change. All too often our mindset is that if we want something done right, then we just need to roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves. It turns out that this might be all wrong…

As IT managers, we now have a lot of additional responsibilities that we never had before. If we hang on to performing tasks that we’ve always done, we’re going to find that we simply don’t have the time to do everything well. This means that we need to give things up – it’s almost like a form of IT team building. We need to decide if we’re going to do this in pieces or all at once. I decided to do it all at once so that my team could be more innovative.

I’ve got to be honest with you, it was not a comfortable feeling when I gave up responsibility for things that I had been doing for a long time. However, I’ve got to hand it to my team – they’ve done a great job of picking up where I left off and in some cases they are actually doing a better job. My days are just as busy as they used to be – clearly I should have done this a long time ago!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you can give up too much too soon? How would you be able to tell?

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As an IT manager, you know that in the future there will probably be tough times. It’s easy for your team to say that they support you when everything is going well. However, when the chips are down and you are experiencing tough times, would they still feel the same way? The answer is probably no – if you have not done anything to make some IT team building happen. What can you do to get your team to support you all the time?