Having taken on the challenge of a management role, I begin to see the delicate balance that we have in every workplace and in various function of having to allow staff to take their own initiative and develop their own autonomy without making them feel like they are not supported. This is perhaps not too far removed from parenting but having not been a parent myself, it can be quite tough. And when I put myself in the shoes of any individual contributor, I begin to realise the struggle.
As a manager, being supportive isn’t just about scheduling check-ins but being able to add value and perspectives to the challenges that one’s staff is having. Even if we may not necessarily have the exact same experience before or that we believe one must just go through the struggle. And on the other hand, an individual contributor may have various risk appetite when it comes to claiming if he or she can do something.
Some people may not know but are willing to try; they may stretch themselves to varying degrees in order to accomplish the work objective. They may or may not be okay with having an end result that is far from what is desired. And they know that is the way for them to learn. Others are more conservative and prefer to learn not by doing but by seeing how it has been done. In that process, the manager ends up doing the work thinking it is a one-off affair and expect the staff to handle it by himself or herself subsequently.
That is to say that the meaning of managerial support can mean different things to different staff and a manager ought to be sensitive to that; and also be prepared to go out of the way to do what it takes. This can be a great toll on the manager who is trying to take more time and effort on the longer term efforts including BD or building up the profile of the company.
And if I think about what makes an ideal staff; he or she is probably one who is willing to take the risks, to make mistakes in the process, take ownership of both the mistakes and the lessons, moving forward knowing they themselves would gain from it despite the emotional costs. The desire to develop that sort of independence is valuable but it is also they are the very same people who would eventually resist being an employee.