“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”

4 minute read

When Robert Frost wrote that “good fences make good neighbors” he may not have realized how much this applies at work.  If you have a manager who likes to step in when you don’t want them to, keep reading.  We’ll cover the costs of these situations and some tools for getting your manager to stay out of your work when they want to “help.”

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

In a recent session, a leader we’ll call Jill mentioned that her manager “Amy” (a VP) was “helping” a lot with a particular type of project. Amy has a lot of experience doing the kind of work involved in this project and really enjoyed getting into the details. Jill was frustrated because this kind of “help” was more disruptive than supportive.

Breaking Down the Costs

Some people may think it’s great that Amy wants to help…though it actually is creating some significant problems. Here’s what’s really happening in situations like this:

Mending Fences

Here are a few ways to help managers and leaders contribute in ways that actually help. It may not feel comfortable initially to have these conversations. Just like most things, the more you do this, the easier it gets.

Creating Trust

When leaders speak up for themselves and their teams in a healthy way, they can create a stronger relationship with their manager. Far from creating mistrust or disappointment, the senior leader gets a better sense of how they can help. So many of us want to help and be of service, and sometimes we press ahead with a path that actually isn’t as helpful as it could be.

Before any of us jump in to assist, ask others what help you can provide that will be most effective. That helps reduce assumptions, creates safety for others to guide you, and keeps you from wandering into someone else’s party!