How to Stop Overmanaging and Become a Great Leader
Published June 14, 2012
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Imagine you’ve just come back to work after a two-week vacation during which you actually relaxed, without calling in or checking email. You discover that there are no pressing issues and that, on the contrary, your team scored a big new customer and fixed a nagging problem during your absence. No red flags or company fires to put out upon your return.
Sadly, for most leaders this scenario is only a dream. They constantly check on what’s happening because they expect the worst, and usually get it. But Keith Murnighan shows that not only is “do nothing” leadership possible, it is also far more effective than doing too much.
Great leaders don’t work; they facilitate and orchestrate. They think of great strategies and help others implement them. They spend their time preparing for the future. They take a broad, comprehensive view of their terrain while also noticing key details, so they can confidently choose the right forks in the road.
In other words, great leaders don’t do anything—except think, make key decisions, help people do their jobs better, and add a touch of organizational control to make sure the final recipes come out okay. In sharp contrast, most leaders are too busy working to do these things—and their teams suffer as a result.
Do Nothing’s practical strategies and true stories will show you how to set high expectations for your team and watch them rise to the challenge. It will help you establish a healthier culture by trusting people more than they expect to be trusted. And it will help you overcome your natural tendencies toward micromanagement so you can let people do their jobs – even when you know you could do their jobs better.
As Murnighan writes, “My experience suggests that you will be surprised—wildly surprised. People on your team will reveal skills you never knew they had, and will accomplish things that go far beyond your estimate of their capabilities. They might not do things the way you would do them, but they will get results you never expected. Everyone has hidden talents, and most leaders never discover them. Before you reject this approach, ask yourself: what if you did nothing and it actually worked?”
“With Do Nothing!, Keith Murnighan has clearly done something–something significant. He’s reconceptualized the idea of effective leadership through a compelling analysis that allows existing and prospective leaders to see how to work both less and better at their craft.”
Robert B. Cialdini, Author of INFLUENCE: Science and Practice
“Prof Murnighan has captured an essential yet hidden truth: oftentimes less is more. Combining real-world examples with cutting edge research, Do Nothing! provides counterintuitive insights and connects them to practical and easily implemented solutions. After reading this book, you will do less but achieve more.”
Adam Galinsky, Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management
“Too often, new leaders find it difficult to delegate previous responsibilities or create a sea of activity during times of crisis. Instead, fighting these tendencies will lead to more effective leadership. Murnighan does a fantastic job demonstrating how this contrarian approach can actually be applied successfully in business. A must read.”
Matthew B. McCall, Partner, New World Ventures
“Murnighan has identified that contrary to popular opinion, leadership turns out to be as much about what you don’t do as what you do. The best leaders today look more like basketball coaches than players, rarely engaging in the day to day delivery but more often focused on strategy and letting great players run with the ball.”
Glen Tullman, CEO, Allscripts
“I can’t “Do Nothing!”, but based on the advice provided by Murnighan, I can be a better leader. Murnighan conveys the harmful effects of all of the standard behaviors that we associate with leadership, and instead teaches us how to facilitate and coordinate our groups and organizations. His advice is based on solid research, the ideas are novel, and will force leaders to consider their tendency to do everything.”
Max H. Bazerman, Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration – Harvard Business School, Co-author of Blind Spots and Negotiation Genius
“Although Do Nothing! is a provocative title, Professor Murnighan is simply reminding us, again, that the most effective motivator is empowerment. A leader’s most important task is to hire well, then to delegate, empower, and trust. Particularly in tough economic times, the inclination to micromanage should be strongly resisted. It will demotivate, show that trust is only lip service, and result in a downward spiral. Writing with a light touch that belies his extensive research, and offering real-world practical examples, Professor Murnighan has delivered an interesting, new, and sometimes counterintuitive way to look at what can make a great leader.”
John Rex-Waller, Chief Executive Officer, National Surgical Hospitals
“Do Nothing! provides a unique approach to running a business. By moving away from micromanaging, Keith tells us that we can help employees grow and give ourselves more time to focus on the bigger picture. This valuable guide will help everyone who reads it to manage better and accomplish more.”
Michael Reinsdorf, president, Chicago Bulls