What do you call a leader who jumps in to help at the hint of a problem in the team?  A hero?  A blessing?  A godsend?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Your team probably call that leader a micro-manager.

And yet problems do need to be overcome.  Just not always by you.

Here are three key questions you need to ask yourself before you wade into a sticky situation and send the wrong message to your team.

Has the team handled problems like this before?

If the team have handled something similar before – with or without your assistance – chances are they’ve got a shot at handling this one.  Stepping in now demonstrates that you don’t trust them to do something they have experience in.

If the problem is significant enough for your attention, ask for an update rather than going into command and control mode.

Is a risk threshold approaching?

Some problems, left unresolved, would not have a significant impact on time, money or effort.  There’s usually no need for you to get involved if that’s the case.  If, however, it’s likely that there’s a moderate or significant impact on time, money or effort, it’s time to take action.

Give your experienced team milestones at which they need to update you.  Ask them to let you know if the problem risks more than X amount of money, or will have an impact above a certain number of hours or days.  For example, if a computer system is down, perhaps you only need to be involved if the tech people indicate the problem will exceed 2 hours.

Guide – or direct – your inexperienced team so that the problem is resolved, ideally in a way that educates them on how to handle it in future.

Am I jumping in for the right reasons?

There are many reasons to jump in and help with a problem.  If your motive is to ensure the best outcome or resolution, you’re on the right track.  If your motive, however, is about you, beware.

You’re making it about you if,

a) you’re trying to demonstrate to everyone how smart and superior you are,

b) you hate conflict so you  jump in rescue the situation in order to maintain peace and harmony so that you can stay comfortable, or

c) you don’t want anyone else to know how to solve the problem because they might do it better than you.

Whatever your motivation, whatever the level of risk involved, and whatever the level of experience of your team, unless the problem is an absolute emergency that requires immediate command and control style leadership, think twice about whether to wade into the problem, and how.

No one likes a micro-manager.