Guy Kawasaki has a great interview with Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of What Were They Thinking? Two quotes stand out for me:
“sometimes…the best leadership is less leadership. No seed can grow if it is dug up and examined every week, and for people to innovate and get things done, sometimes they need some time and space and resources.”
It does take the right touch, though. Some folks will not get things done when given time and space, and some will flourish. The trick is to know who is who and treat them accordingly.
For example, I like to let a big problem “stew” for a few days before I start working on it. This bothers some of my coworkers who mistake the lack of visible progress for lack of work, and then step in to intervene, sometimes every day. The net result is that I get nothing done because all of my time is spent dealing with the course corrections. If we had stayed on the original course I’d be done.
“…people can’t be creative if they are exhausted. And when people work when they are tired, they make mistakes. If we have learned anything from the quality movement, it is that the cost of finding and fixing mistakes is greater than the cost of preventing them.”
This is why I hate off-hours maintenance windows. What condition am I in at 5 AM? Tired. What do I do when I’m tired? All sorts of things, and I’m sometimes just lucky that the users aren’t awake to see me mess up. The same is true of a long work week. When I am pulling a 70 hour work week because of upgrades, maintenance, etc. I build downtime in there so I stay sharp. My downtime comes in the form of sleeping in, taking a day off, or sometimes just not working on that project one day mid-week to give my brain a break.