OnPoint, LLC

What is the cost of “no surprises?”

Early in my management career, I reported to a politically savvy executive who insisted on “no surprises” from his direct reports. He wanted to make sure that he would always be able to respond to questions about any of our projects and thus avoid the appearance of being out of touch. Since then, I have met managers who either explicitly or implicitly expected the same. Some would become angry with their direct reports any time they were presented with questions for which they were unprepared.

Beyond exhibiting insecurity, these managers are increasing costs for their employers. Their direct reports waste time on frequent and sometimes detailed emails on day-to-day problems and issues. Meeting time is devoted to bringing the boss up to speed and PowerPoint presentations are developed to ensure the manager is properly briefed.

Managers who want no surprises are focused on control rather than empowerment. They demonstrate that do not trust their direct reports to make decisions themselves. As a result, they inflict a level of organizational paralysis.

In a fast moving organization, managers look for ways to remove obstacles for their teams rather than control their actions. For such an organization, the cost of no surprises is the loss of agility.

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OnPoint, LLC