Monday, May 10, 2010

Ceding Control

I'm mentoring a new manager these days. She entered management in a fairly typical fashion: by being the go to tester on her team, the one with the communication skills, the team needed to grow, and - presto! - she's now the manager. For the most part, the change hasn't been too bad. She's coordinating the test priority, and helping keep focus on all the things the team is working on. She's talking about test with the development manager and going to requirements meetings to suggest ways to make the requirement more testable. All good.

There's one problem, though: ceding control.

A good individual contributor learns to trust herself and her work. When she does something, she knows that it'll be done right. This holds whether it's development, test, whatever. As a new manager, it's really easy to carry over that attitude, and to start to insist on how things should be tested and what should be said. Keeping control like this is a recipe for exhaustion.

Managers need to be able to cede control to their teams.

Yes, ultimately anything your team does - for better or worse - is your responsibility. But you can't do it all; it won't get done. You have to let your team help you, and they can do that most effectively when they're the ones in control, when they're not being micromanaged.

This is really hard.

Let's try an exercise. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of it. On the left side, write "must control" and on the right side put "Let it go". Now you're going to make a list of the kinds of things that you absolutely must own. You're also going to make a list of the things that you can let your team control. Then when something comes up, ask yourself if you really need to control it.

The point is that as you move into management, you take on different responsibilities. Part of that is letting your team grow to fill that void you're leaving. You took control and you didn't screw up; it's how you ended up in management. Give your team the same opportunity you had. Cede some control to them.


  1. I'll totally agree that it is really hard.

    Any tips to make it easier and how to learn how to do it ?

  2. Nice Post, you have explained quite good management tip.