Micromanagers are jerks. You’re not a jerk so you never have to worry about being a micromanager. Right? Sorry…
When you first become a manager your instinct will be to micromanage. Why? Because it’s hard to give up control. You’re not used to it. As an individual contributor, you knew what you had to do to succeed and you took those steps. It was clear and you knew how to do it.
So how do you make people successful without telling them what to do?
Honestly, it’s surprising we’re not all micromanagers.
It’s likely you just want to help. It feels like you have the secret to success – if they do what you did, they can be successful too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
It’s like trying to wear someone else’s shoes. What conformed to them perfectly puts you off balance because you’re different. Your employees need to do what works for them.
So what do you do?
The further up the ladder you go, the more you need to take a step back. Ask yourself the following:
Sound suspiciously like a success plan? All of a sudden, this is something you have done before – sort of. There’s a little nuance to it.
It’s much easier to give someone autonomy when you know and trust them. This is why it can be tempting in a new position to think, “I’ll keep a close eye initially, then loosen the reins once I get to know them."
That may feel safest for you, but it does not start a good relationship with your team. If you are new to the company, remember they’ve been here longer and are still employed. They must be doing something right… So give them the benefit of the doubt. Employees often want to prove themselves to a new boss. Give them the chance to do that and you might be surprised at just how much they can accomplish on their own.
You will still need to communicate what you’d like them to accomplish and when - and even ask them about their process! Just don’t make them report back to you every step of the way.
The best leaders provide a goal, point their employees in the right direction and give them the tools they need to succeed. But this only works if there is trust.
Explain that you’d like to approach this as a partnership. You will lay out the goals, KPIs and check in points. Ask them if they have the tools and information they need to get the job done and highlight that your door is wide open if they need guidance or encounter any obstacles. You are there for guidance and to remove roadblocks.
Let them see that you believe in them and you’re there to help – then get out of the way! This is essentially just respect. It’s a simple enough concept, but too few people give their employees that dignity.
Do what you said you would. In each 1:1 take the time to:
If their KPIs are trending the wrong way, ask why they think that is. Look for clues - see if it’s occurring at the same point in the customer lifecycle or if there is a process that needs tweaking. Solve the problem together.
The obvious downside of this is that occasionally there will be an employee who takes advantage of this kind of leadership style. However, it is usually apparent fairly quickly. Assume good intent for as long as you can and try and problem-solve with them. If they aren’t meeting expectations offer help. If they know what is expected of them and don’t change their behavior, you have a clear path to start documenting it.
I’ve found these people often see themselves out the door fairly quickly and your remaining team who HAVE proved themselves can achieve so much more with this leadership style. This is a much faster path to success than withholding trust from everyone because one person might not live up to your expectations. As a bonus, most people respond positively to this kind of leadership.
It can feel like a leap of faith to do this for the first time, but if you don’t trust your employees, they won’t trust you. Using these methods you won’t have “employees” for long – you’ll have a team.
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