Management: I Walk the Line

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Two genres of business advice:

  • Hire great people and let them work. Make your business a magnet for top prospects. Find an amazing candidate? Hire her—even if you don’t have a role. And then back off: Give your staff authority and autonomy.

  • Nurture and guide your team. Employees need direction, feedback, and clearly established expectations. Managers need to give guidance and set parameters regularly—not just at annual performance reviews.

I agree.

Yet the two assertions highlight a difficult balance for managers: Letting people take charge of their work and giving them enough direction and guidance to ensure they can excel.

A fine art: Managing enough—but not too much.

Great work for corporations doesn’t happen in vacuums:

  • How can employees craft their roles and feel empowered, informed, and engaged if they don’t know the big picture?

  • How can people see their futures within the organization without guidance?

  • From a distance, how do managers ensure they challenge employees enough—yet not so much they feel overwhelmed?

  • Without some level of oversight, how do team members know if their work needs realignment?

Likewise, great work doesn’t happen when managers hover:

  • Micromanagement makes for miserable employees. And miserable employees leave.

  • People like to feel autonomy in and control and ownership of their work.

  • Employees with some leeway develop ideas that their managers never would.

Significant improvement in anything interpersonal means meeting each other halfway. Managers may not realize they need to give more direction. They may not see they’ve tipped the line into micromanagement. Don't let frustration grow while you wait for them to figure it out.

In my case, I tend to manage too little. I need people to remind me to paint the picture and guide their visions. I need them to ask questions.

Whatever their types of managers, employees need to come to the table:

  • Ask for the big picture. Ask how you fit into this picture.

  • Determine how you can contribute and proactively pose solutions.

  • Ask your manager what he needs from you to feel informed. Often, people micromanage because no one has updated them on works in progress.

  • When you get stuck, ask questions. When you do, show off your competency and ingenuity and make it a collaborative discussion: Always pose a possible solution.

No relationship is one-sided—including your relationship with your manager.

Initiative is taken, not given.