When I told my mother, an executive of 30 years mostly spent at Crabtree and Evelyn, about my goal to make myself obsolete she flipped.
“You are working yourself out of your job,” she warned. “You need to be doing the opposite.”
My mom fought through sexism for decades to maintain her influential role at the top of the hierarchy. My mother is a scrapper and she clearly had to defend her territory. From her advice on management issues however, it seems pretty clear to me she probably never got ahead of the tsunami of work that consumes managers’ everyday lives. I mostly observe managers fire fighting and doing implementation. This is a trap. We all want to feel important, but if managers are the single point of failure, things will fall apart.
I’ve mused about my take on maker versus manager, it can be hard to let go, but those that never let go of the hybrid role are doomed. The manager may not be, but the team is. We owe it to our reports to make sure we have the time to properly manage them. It feeds our egos to have a full calendar and lots of “important” decisions to make, but if that’s all we do then we will eventually drown in our own self-importance rather than develop the people on our team to help shoulder the load. Scale will break us.
So thanks mom for the advice, but I still strive to make myself obsolete, so the world will continue to spin without me. So I can go on vacation without stressing. So I can dedicate a good chunk of my week to 1 on 1s and so my lieutenants feel qualified and empowered to make the calls shape our team and product. I may be working myself out of a job, but at least I feel like I’m going to do this one right.