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How to Manage Your Team Closely… Without Micromanaging

January 31, 2017
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What do you think is the biggest pain point people have with their current jobs? Is it salary? Typically not. Is it location? Wrong. Is it industry? Nope.

The complaint that most people have about their current job has to do with their perceived level of autonomy and independence in their current role. And what does that boil down to? Studies indicate that more often than not, it can be attributed in part to how closely their immediate supervisor or manager dictates the nuances and production details of the work created by their employees.

In a recent study by AccounTemps, research showed that more than 59% of respondents admitted that they have or currently are working under a micromanager. Of those respondents, 68% thought that this management approach effectively lowered overall team morale, and 55% reported it as a serious inhibitor to their work productivity, as well as that of the business at large.

So why do people manage this way? No one consciously goes into a management role trying to be overbearing, controlling, or nitpicky, but the statistics show that micromanaging is a lot more common than one may think.

It’s somewhat paradoxical if you really think about it – if you don’t manage employees closely enough, you run the risk of having a project or task run off-course. But, being overly attentive and micromanaging cannot only harm morale, it can cause workflow bottlenecks across departments and slow down overall business productivity.

Related: Tips for Managing Relationships in the Workplace

There are plenty of examples of managers who strike that balance where they are high-touch, but are not encroaching on the autonomy of their employees in their pursuit to produce good work. These employers typically get the most out of their teams not only in terms of work quality, but morale as well.

I’ve observed some incredibly gifted managers in my (admittedly short) professional career, and they share some discernable traits that I think makes them effective high-touch managers. Here are a few ways that they successfully managed me closely – without micromanaging.

Keep Casual, Open Lines Of Communication With Your Team

Micromanagement often boils down to the frequency with which a manager communicates with their team. If the only thing you communicate with the team about is how they can be doing their work differently or better, that is a problem.

As a manager, especially as an Account Manager, you shouldn’t only be building rapport and trust with clients, but with your internal team as well. Your responsibility to your internal team is to create an environment that fosters high-quality work and employee enjoyment.

Old-school business types used to think of these two endeavors as mutually exclusive, but as we’ve seen with modern business models like Google, LinkedIn, or even agencies like Power Digital Marketing, those two go hand-in-hand.

Related: 9 Deadly Sins to Avoid as an Account Manager

To foster this type of atmosphere, you need to have open lines of communication with your team. This means not only chatting with them about their work (which, don’t get me wrong, is a huge component of management), but also having a real investment in their personal well-being.

Employees need to understand how highly they’re valued; if you’re constantly picking apart the work that an employee produces because it isn’t up to your standards, and that is the extent to which you communicate, how responsive do you think they’re going to be to your feedback after a while? Short answer – not very.

One tip that can help keep lines of communication open is to take your team out to lunch or to the local bar when not on the clock. Show them that your relationship doesn’t have to simply be a working one, but that it can be a social one too.

Another is to use internal communication tools like Slack, Google Chat/Hangout, or Brosix to stay in constant communication with your team and stay updated on project progress, so that if you do have edits or feedback, they’re less significant since you’re checking in more frequently on a more casual basis (rather than standing over their shoulder and pointing out a long list of things that you feel they did wrong.)

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Setting Expectations Early

Another contributor to micromanagement is when there is a fundamental misunderstanding or miscommunication between manager and team members. If this breakdown in expectation-setting occurs, it becomes hard for employees to produce the work that the manager wants to see, which, in turn, opens the door for – you guessed it – micromanagement.

So, if you’re able to set clear-cut expectations early on, you are more likely to see work that aligns with those expectations. It gives your team enough time to assess how they can go about achieving the quality of work you want to see, and eliminates any guesswork on the part of the team that may lead to ill-advised strategy or production.

A great way to accomplish this is to hold an internal “kickoff” meeting of sorts before embarking on a new project or task. This is where you meet with your team and tell them how you envision the final product to look, go over any KPI’s that need to be addressed, and address any immediate sources of confusion or concerns that your team has. This way, you can create a clear and concise game plan and forge ahead with the project, having addressed the main sources of miscommunication or confusion.

Related: How to Manage Millennials in the Workplace

From there, equip your team with physical notes from the meeting as a reminder of what was covered. This isn’t by any means a foolproof exercise, but it surely addresses big sources of confusion early on that would typically lead to miscommunication between the team and manager.

Repressing The “I’ll Do It Myself” Mentality

I’ll be the first to say – I’ve been guilty of this, but this is probably the biggest piece of advice someone who is prone to practicing micromanagement can hear. The controlling, or “I’ll do it myself” mentality is, in my experience (but mainly from what I’ve observed in the form of complaints from my friends), the biggest factor in the creation of rifts between management and the team in business.

Managers, according to a study conducted by the Psychology Department at Harvard University are typically Type A personalities, meaning that they are more competitive, outgoing, ambitious, impatient and/or aggressive. This is a great explanation as to why a Type A personality may be inclined to pursue a role in management. However, it does come with its downsides.

Related: 9 Agency Leadership Mantras to Live By

Being a Type A personality means that you are accustomed to having things done a particular way, which when leading a team (and when paired with any kind of impatience you may have), might lead you to think you need to just disregard sub-par work that a team member turns in, and do it correctly yourself.

I can’t stress this enough; do not.

Effective management, as discussed earlier, is about empowering your team and demonstrating to them that you value them, their time, and their effort. If you handle an aspect of a project that you had previously tasked to an employee because they didn’t meet your standards, how much will they think you value them? How much do they feel their (at this point wasted) time and effort is worth? Again, not very.

Instead, use that as an opportunity to clarify any misguided expectations, questions, or pain points your team has run into in the production of that work. If you don’t, not only are you devaluing the work that your team has produced, but also setting the precedent that they can turn in sub-par work and that you’ll just handle it.

Related: How to Develop Leaders in a Small Business

This will effectively cause you extra stress, and take away your team’s perception of autonomy, which (as we’ve seen) can be the biggest cause of unhappiness in someone’s current role. So why run that risk? Just don’t do it, and instead use it as an opportunity to permanently clear up that problem. 

Wrapping Up

Micro-management may seem like the rational thing to do at times, but don’t get trapped into doing it so often that your entire identity as a manager is that of a “micro-manager”. This only diminishes your credibility in the long-run. People respond best to managers who are detail-oriented and expect a high level of performance, but who also have a personal investment in the well-being of their team.

There is a distinct difference between managing and micromanaging, and the best managers are able to successfully toe the line between the two roles.

Manage closely, but not too closely. Stay on your team about what they should be held accountable for, but celebrate their wins just as much. Build rapport with stakeholders, but build camaraderie with your team. Do what you need to do to communicate the fact that you value your team, and you’ll always be the close manager, instead of the micro-manager.




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