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I have been a manager for two years now. During the first year, I performed really well and was held in high regard by both my superiors and my reports.

During the second year, I spent a lot of time reading about management and how to grow further on this career track. One of the things I did was give my reports more freedom, develop them and share more authority with the hope that doing so would propel me higher. Instead, it started backfiring as reports started taking things entirely into their own hands, knowing more than me both technically and process-wise, and often arguing with me. When my superiors ask me something I always need to bring the relevant reports with me as they are now more knowledgeable and technically savvy at work, whereas I do coordination.

When they argue, they are often right. And I feel like it's not even worth arguing because they know better anyway. In a way, I fear this is making me appear in a bad light, both among my reports and among my superiors. I appear like a moderator who has done his job and my reports are the doing the actual work.

I am not entirely sure where this is going, but I certainly feel uncomfortable about my leadership and career development at this point.

What can I do to repair my leadership and growth in the hierarchies?

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    Sounds like you've surrounded yourself with very talented people and they feel comfortable taking the initiative, growing professionally, and becoming SME's. Sounds like a great team with a great manage! – Brandon Sep 22 '14 at 22:45
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    hmm.. one thing you don't say is why you think you're appearing in a bad light. Have you had a performance review and some feedback? – HorusKol Sep 23 '14 at 2:35
  • You might have to get the first concubine beheaded to get the command... – amar Sep 23 '14 at 5:43
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    "I appear like a moderator who has done his job and my reports are the doing the actual work." - that is exactly what a manager is there for. – S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica Sep 23 '14 at 7:47
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    Assertiveness != Leadership. Being the boss != being bossy. – Jared Sep 23 '14 at 15:47
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Do you want to manage, or micro-manage?

It sounds like you've created a good team, and you are managing it well. In any sane organisation, your performance as a manager should be based on your team's performance.

So they know more than you - that is what they're there for. You don't say how many reports you have - but even if there are only two, do you really think you can become as knowledgeable as both of those guys put together (if the answer is yes, you either need to check your ego, or hire better reports). Your job is to set direction for the team and pass messages up and down the chain. Their job is to solve the problems.

As soon as you start interfering with the details, you are micro-managing - and this will cause resentment in your knowledgeable and experienced team members, and cause you to stop managing the team, and eventually cause the performance of your team to degrade.

Keep doing what you're doing.

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  1. Your reports are doing the actual work? Gee, what's the tragedy in that? They are actually paid to do the actual work not you. The day I do one of my subordinates' job - that day is pretty close to the day I fire him. The reason I have subordinates is that at last count, there is only one of me. As my favorite actor Clint Eastwood said in the movie "Josey Wales" after he shot four bad guys in a showdown and put his life into the hands of his sidekick's taking out the fifth, "A man's got to know his limitations" :)

  2. "When my superiors ask me something I always need to bring the relevant reports with me as they are now more knowledgeable and technically savvy at work, whereas I do coordination. Do you actually read your reports' reports? You seem to be bringing them along like a pair of crutches. On one hand, it could be lack of self confidence on your part or a failure to read the homework you assigned them. Or your reports' reports have reached a level of sophistication and specificity that require them to be at the meetings to answer the questions. Or may be a bit of both.

  3. "When they argue, they are often right. And I feel like it's not even worth arguing because they know better anyway. In a way, I fear this is making me appear in a bad light" You are not here to argue but to get at the truth. You don't argue with people who know more than you do unless you are confident of the ground beneath your feet. Worst that happens is that you stay silent, go back to your office and double check everything they say.Is that the end of the world? It's about getting at the truth. If you check your ego at the door and don't bring it into the conference room, your ego won't be around to get bruised.

  4. "What can I do to repair my leadership and growth in the hierarchies?" Your job and your responsibilities have grown in a different direction, and you were instrumental in making that change happen - You just haven't been paying attention. You want things to go back the way they were. Really? What if the way they were led you to where you are today? You need to revise your understanding of your job and of your responsibilities toward your reports and your superiors. Otherwise, you'll never catch up to what you are actually doing now. So far as I see, your job has changed and it has changed for good, and nostalgia won't bring anything back. I suggest that you go with the flow and steer your boat to wherever you want to go next instead of trying to row against the current.

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    I may be wrong, but I think that in the question, the word "reports" means "person who reports to me", not "what is written down in a report". – Jenny D Sep 23 '14 at 3:31
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    @JennyD You're not wrong at all - I used the word "subordinates" to refer to the individuals and "reports" to refer to their reports, whereas the OP used the same word for both, leaving us to sort out which is which from examining the context. – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 23 '14 at 3:34
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    @JennyD No worries. Often enough, I shouldn't comment after I've had my morning coffees, especially after my fourth morning coffee - grrr! :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 23 '14 at 3:38
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    I think Jenny's right "I always need to bring the relevant reports with me as they are now more knowledgeable" indicates he's taking subordinates to the meetings – HorusKol Sep 23 '14 at 7:37
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    @Horuskol I just figured out what Jenny and you are saying, and I edited my answer accordingly. I am not happy at all that the OP used "reports" to refer to both his subordinates and their reports. He should have spent more time on being clear about what he was asking and less time worrying about his "growth". – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 23 '14 at 18:58
5

The answers all seem to be "what's the problem?", but I've been there myself. The problem is your contribution gets less visible and quantifiable, so people end up asking "so what does GoldenStork actually bring to the team?".

You need to work on your visibility, but this isn't a case of taking the credit for everyone to advance yourself. You need to over communicate a bit to link yourself to the success of your team and show what your involvement is, but here is the crucial bit - you need to make sure you are giving credit and visibility to the people on your team who are doing the great work. As your team grow in estimation, your own stock will grow (and your team will think your great as you're helping them as well).

Once it's fixed in memory, you can focus on the long term aims and any issues that arise day-to-day, and that is where you will add real value as you'll be on top of the big picture items, whilst having a team that handles the business as usual tasks to the highest standard.

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Your job as a leader is to set priorities, assign the duties and responsibilities, be a buffer between your team and higher management, allow personal growth, help resolve problems, which need escalation and of course monitor progress.

It sounds like you have a good team, which is doing its job, congratulations on that part. Your challenge right now is to learn how to be involved. You need to find a protocol to be up to date with what your team is doing and how they are progressing, I would suggest:

  • Attend meetings in which decisions are being made (even if you'll just listen) as time permits you
  • Hold team meetings in which you'll discuss what's going outside the team and what the future holds and also give every member some time to update on progress
  • Ask how things are progressing
  • Prepare for meetings in advance so you don't need to bring a member to every meeting you attend (because you're the one who was invited)

It is not a bad practice to ask a team member to join a meeting, it might not be a good practice to bring someone to every meeting.

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