The team is only as strong as its busiest link
Using the service industry as an example, places such as hotels and restaurants can only operate at the speed of its most burdened employee—the dishwasher. This holds true even in white collar jobs, where the lowly accountant helps channel resources to where they are needed. However, if workers in these often-stressful, overburdening positions are left to their own devices when the going gets tough, the rest of the operation will inevitably suffer. Creating a team environment depends on leaders of all ranks to step down into the trenches once in a while. As the manager of Rivers Casino in Chicago says, the only thing a manager should do when they see a dishwasher up to his neck in dishes is to step in and help them out. That means giving up pretense of being above certain jobs—ideally, no job is too small in a company, and people in higher ranks should be expected to know how to perform lower-tier jobs as effectively as anyone else.
The difference between micromanaging and helping out
But you help out, right? The true test of leadership is knowing whether you’re a helper or a micromanager. The difference between the two is that while helping a fellow employee out shows that you value their hard work enough to do the same job, micromanaging—and essentially taking over—only shows an employee that you don’t trust them enough to do the job right. Micromanagers’ only motivation for stepping in to do a job is insecurity. Think about it: if an employee is suspected of a lack of skill, that only reflects on the micromanagers’ own failure to adequately train them despite hiring them for that position. Stepping in is their way of avoiding blame. If you’re a coworker that’s not in charge of hiring, this only shows contempt—one borne almost certainly of reasons made up in your own head. Examine your motivations, and be sure to give value to your team by either helping or teaching.
Horizontal management scheme is the future
Although it’s hard to see such a concept working in mega-corporation situations, companies across North America have been consolidating power structures and opting for management schemes more horizontal in nature—more people have equal decision-making powers, managers work the same floor, chefs work the same kitchen. As such, keeping a team mentality thriving is more important than ever. As you approach your job now and later in your career, keep the mentality that all employees are truly equal, and jump right into that overloaded sink when you have to. And to the little guy—don’t feel shy about asking for help.