Leaders Getting Their Hands Dirty – Jumping In

Team Leadership: Should A Leader Take Over During Crunch Time?

Question: I have recently been promoted to group leader so I am now leading my former co-workers. In spite of being new to the leadership game, things are running smoothly. My question for you is did you think it’s a good idea for me to pick up the slack and work the ‘front line’ with my group when we are in danger of missing our deadline?

The answer is a qualified yes, since there are one or two pitfalls to jumping in.

Obviously, jumping in and actually doing the work can be a good idea in terms of getting things done when there’s a crunch. But the power of “jumping in” lies in your showing that you are committed to getting things done and you are willing to do more than talk, and you’re willing to walk the talk. It sends a positive message.

However, there are some cautions:

You need to be careful you aren’t perceived as taking over from your staff, or that you lack confidence in their abilities. To avoid this, before jumping in ask staff how you can best help them achieve the goal. Listen.

  • There is a danger that you will get into the havit of doing the work of subordinates because you know how and you are used to doing those tasks. If this becomes a habit, it may result in you not paying enough attention to your leadership and management responsibilities. This sometimes happens to people who are promoted and who don’t adapt to the new situation.
  • If you are constantly jumping in to cover for staff who aren’t doing their jobs properly, this sends the wrong message and sends the message that you aren’t going to hold staff accountable for their work. This is not a good thing.
  • If you are constantly feeling there is a need to jump in to keep projects on time, that can be a symptom of something you need to look at. Are projects not planned and managed well? Are the wrong people working on projects? Or, do you just prefer to do the work rather than lead the work?
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