You all know such managers! They gave us a speech last week about how they had organised their family holiday around a few video conferences, email days and project monitoring and reporting. When we were taken aback by their delight and told them that we considered their behaviour dangerous for their department and the company they work for, they went on to point to their colleagues who are unreachable on holiday. „They have no personal commitments“, they assured us.
This mindset is unfortunately widespread and often toxic. It is therefore time to talk about one of the most powerful management tools: the handover note.
Beyond the fact that it is a document created by those who are about to leave their workplace, temporarily or permanently, to help their colleagues follow up and continue the work in progress, the handover note is above all:
The handover note addresses all the issues that are ongoing, those that are due or may arise and finally those that have been completed. The note should be distributed to the immediate superior, but also and above all to the peers in the organisation. Therefore they will know who to turn to in your absence and to the subordinates who are taking over.
Based on the principle that your position is a link in the value chain of your organisation, it is important that each of your stakeholders is listed as a recipient of the note. Accurate and concise, the handover note describes the status of the project, the impending milestones, the risks associated with the milestones, the actions to be taken by whom and until when. In the event of an unexpected problem, the line manager will be able to react very quickly since he or she will have all the information at hand.
We can’t say it enough: transparency builds trust. With a handover note, you give full access to your department’s projects and allow your organisation to compensate for your absence. While its contents can help your hierarchy, it also empowers your staff. Delegating work to progress during your absence is a sign of trust and differs greatly from ordinary delegation. You will not be present if there is a problem, you will not be able to ask for changes if the path taken to reach the goal is not your own. You have to trust the person to achieve a result or to accomplish a task. This trust will then be reciprocated and fostered if you praise the achieved and expected result on your return.
In addition, the transparency offered by a handover note reduces compliance problems. Indeed, the more people know about a particular process, the more compliant it is.
At last, the handover note puts the work of your employees in the forefront of the hierarchy, as everyone knows who has done which work during your absence. This not only has an effect on trust but also on the personal development of the employees.
The transparency mentioned in the previous paragraph is also a test for the organisation. The tasks, their owner, the delivery date, the goals to be achieved, the risks to be avoided, all these data are revealed to the stakeholders. This transparency allows you to assess your ability to delegate to the right people on the one hand, but also allows the right people to show their abilities.
When you return, you will have to examine what worked well and what did not work so well, so that the feedback can be used to make changes, but also to discuss with the staff what training and reorientation are necessary.
Delegation, trust, feedback, highlighting the abilities of employees are the qualities that define good managers. The handover note is only the tangible form of these qualities and also allows you to distinguish yourself from the nano-managers. They often spend their holidays online and reachable at any time as if nothing could happen without them, or even worse, as if they had something to hide. But what is this nano manager for?
The nano-manager is the extrapolated form of the micromanager. The latter, who wants to control everything and is never satisfied with the work done by his subordinates, has been transformed into a nano manager with the help of digital technology. Nano-managers are probably people who want everything done exactly their way, but who provide little explanation, support, help or advice.
They need to control everything because they don’t trust their teams, and often the feeling is mutual. Nano managers slow down processes and projects by demanding that all decisions go through their desk.
The nano-manager does not exactly spend a peaceful holiday.
List current projects, immediate tasks, who is responsible for these tasks, deadlines, risks, remedies, stakeholders and dates of your absence. Seal an envelope with the emergency number where you can be reached and give it to a colleague.
What next? Have a great summer holiday!