Being involved ... just enough

May 18, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 9.35.39 AMMistakes happen, and to minimize them without demotivating your people, a measured response is critical. We had a situation this week – a headline had been added to my recent article on millennials in the workforce by one of our TZL editors that inadvertently distorted what I wanted to say – and it caused some consternation from some of our readers and staff. As they say, "those things do happen" from time-to-time, but it indicated a need for us to change our review process here. These things happen in A/E firms every day. Someone puts something in an email they shouldn't put in an email. Or a change gets made to a project right before it's shown to the client when the principal-in-charge knows that is not the direction the client wants to go. Or a proposal goes out with something majorly wrong with it. There are many more of these situations we have all experienced. So yes, these things DO happen, but what matters is your response to it. A/Es typically respond by creating some sort of unsustainable review process that there's no way to actually follow because it is so bureaucratic it eventually collapses. Or, the "boss" jumps in and starts trying to do everyone's job – equally horrible and detrimental to the company. Neither of these is really the ideal way to handle things. People hate bureaucracy. More forms to fill out. More meetings. More steps to get something done or "out." It is a huge demotivator. It slows everything down. It really just doesn't work very well in actuality even if the logic behind it seems sound. And when it comes to quality, having any steps in writing that you don't always follow can be the exact evidence needed to prove your negligence. And as far as the boss stepping in – this is part of the art of leadership. Don't get involved when you need to and bad things can clearly happen. Get involved when you don't need to and alienation and demotivation occurs. Do it all of the time and eventually you will be responsible for doing everything yourself. Your people will just throw up their hands. I think the only real answer to this conundrum that all of us find ourselves in (probably daily), is this: You have to inject yourself – just the right amount of your input at the exact right time – so you get the end result you want but don't demotivate anyone. You'll also grow better people who can make good decisions on their own over time and then not need as much of "your input" into what they do. ‎And whatever grows our people is what we all need to be concerned with. That's the only way for us to grow – as individuals and firms. Thoughts on this subject? Send me your emails at

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s founder and CEO. Contact him at

This article is from issue 1146 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here for to get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.