There’s always a temptation to jump in and re-write inadequate reports and take over projects from teammates if they are floundering. It feels like it is the right thing to do for both the person involved and for the organisation itself. Get the job done. Help out. Be the saviour. That’s what ‘team players’ are supposed to do, right?
I used to think that. Not anymore. What it actually does, in my view, is slow down progress in the long run rather than speed it up. It might sound counter-intuitive but it isn’t. Why? Because by repeatedly stepping in to save the day you’re stifling the development of your team and you’re making them more (not less) reliant on you. Not good.
These days I hand back sub-standard work with some improvement suggestions and ask for it to be done again. And even though I make it clear I’m available to help I won’t do the work for them. If it takes a few times to get it right then that’s fine by me. I don’t subscribe to the theory that ‘it will only take me five minutes to fix so I may as well do it myself.’ I believe that you need to allow people the freedom to screw up. Failure is an efficient teacher and by catching people before they hit the ground they won’t develop as fast as they otherwise might. Sure it’s a bit painful (and takes a bit longer at the start) but it’s also a quicker way to learn and better in the long term for everyone.
What can help too is asking ‘first tell me what you know, then tell me what you think.’ This can quickly establish how much knowledge they have about a particular issue which allows you to more accurately target how you will help them. It can also help to set more realistic expectations.
Being a ‘saviour’ might pump up your own ego but it is a short term fix that will only impede the long term development of your organisation. No business can run effectively if the ability to perform critical tasks is in the hands of a small number of people. What happens when they’re away? Or busy? Nothing. And that’s not good for anyone…