Lesson 033: Is Management involvement really necessary
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 7/6 ('Phantasms')


Capt. Picard's anxiety grows as his arrival at an Admiral's conference at Starfleet is severely delayed due to a malfunction in the Enterprise warp engines which has left the ship adrift.

As LaForge and Data try to repair the warp engine damage, Capt. Picard hovers around them in the engineering section offering elementary suggestions for possible resolutions, all of which have already been addressed by LaForge and Data.

By injecting himself into the process, although with good intentions, Capt. Picard only manages to hinder the work being performed.


Managers are always required to be available to provide their staff with guidance, alternatives and hands-on assistance when needed. However, there are times when the involvement of a manager or higher level ranking personnel may only serve to delay and hinder the work progress.

Especially in times of urgency, such as when deliveries fall behind schedule, or a road block is encountered in a task, or perhaps a customer is upset, there is an instinctive reaction from all managers to jump in and help resolve the situation by getting involved personally.

Managers should always think twice before doing so.

First, managers must review if the problem really requires their physical presence or technical assistance; second, managers must ask themselves if they trust their staff to solve the issues by themselves; and third, managers must consider if the involvement of management might not send the wrong signal to all involved that the problem is more severe than it really is and that the staff involved is inept or incapable of handling the situation.

When staff is allowed to resolve problems by themselves, they gain a sense of pride and self-fulfillment that they accomplished something on their own, without management assistance.

This is akin to the child who first toddles forward on his own two feet without being held up by an adult, or like the child who rolls down the road on his first bike without the parent running alongside holding on. In these instances, the benefits of acquiring independence are equally shared by both the teacher and the student.

On the other hand, if the manager does not trust the staff to do the job right by themselves alone, then the manager has a far more serious problem than just the issue at hand. The manager needs to figure out where and how the trust was lost and fix that core problem, before trying to fix anything else.

Finally, keep in mind that staff, being respectful of managers, may not always tell the manager directly that the manager's help is not needed. So, as managers, exercising restraint and even asking 'Can I help?' may go a long way to avoiding un-necessary delays and frustrations.

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