Masters of Scale - Week Ten

When to Step Back and Let Employees Solve Major 'Fire-Burning' Crises

As a manager, you can't do everything on your own. That's why you have a team of employees to help.
3 min read

Editor’s Note: In the new podcast Masters of Scale, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman explores his philosophy on how to scale a business -- and at, entrepreneurs are responding with their own ideas and experiences on our hub. This week, we’re discussing Hoffman’s theory: smart managers know when to let fires burn.

Decision-making and effectively responding to crises are the core responsibilities of a manager. From small day-to-day issues to major “fires,” knowing how and when to resolve an issue is crucial to being a successful leader.

Related: Smart Leaders From Survey Monkey and PayPal Explain When to Let Fires Burn

“The best entrepreneurs? They let fires burn,” says Hoffman on Masters of Scale a podcast series that explores counterintuitive theories to growing a company. “Deciding which fires you let burn, and how long you let them burn for can make the difference between success and failure.”

Hoffman’s belief struck a chord with both Emmy Award winning producer and founder of Greg Rollett and Entrepreneur‘s editor-in-chief Jason Feifer. While Rollett and Feifer agree it’s important to empower employees to put out these major “fire-burning” crises themselves, it’s also important to understand that different types of crises occur. And the type of crises will help to determine the appropriate response of a manager.

Related: These 6 Efficiency Tips Will Help You Decide Which Problems to Tackle

Rollett believes there are two kinds of fires: big fires that take your full attention and time and then day-to-day decision-making crises that are smaller scale. When it comes to handling the big fires, delegation is an important factor. Like Hoffman’s theory states, that means sometimes a manager should take step back and let responsible employees handle it. By doing so, “It builds the culture, it builds the team, it builds the community,” says Rollett.

Related: How to Build an Entrepreneurial Community

“Crises are great opportunities to bring people together,” Feifer agrees. So, instead of turning to the manager to solve every big fire, it’s important to incorporate team members. Although, that doesn’t mean every team member. Everyone has a unique ability and they should be doing that unique ability, thinks Rollett, “That’s when less problems happen because you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Check out the video to learn more about decision-making, empowering employees and responding to crises.

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