Monday, April 13, 2009

Micro Management

I often wonder why people micro manage: trust issues, control issues, fear of their boss, misplaced demand for respect from their teams, perceived job security, lack of organizational skills, inexperience, any combination of the above... I suppose it depends on the Manager.

I worked for a micro manager about 8 years ago and I am convinced he micro managed out of boredom. He didn't have enough to do so he would ask me 100 questions a day. In reality, I could have accomplished a lot more if I didn't have to respond to his pointless questions.

I have worked with Micro Managers and listened to their teams talk about them behind their back. As a manager, you need to be involved but not to the point that it gets in the way of your team getting things done or undermines your teams confidence.

There is not one management book, that I am aware of, that endorses micro management and this article further demonstrates the negative impact of helicopter supervision.


Susan Corcoran

Harvard Business Publishing is one of my favourite sites! Full of relevant information!

Micromanage at Your Peril
7:30 PM Thursday February 28, 2008
by Christina Bielaszka-DuVernay

Tags:Employee retention, Managing people, Managing yourself

All managers want their employees to be more productive--to collaborate more energetically, to work more efficiently. But in pursuit of productivity, many fine managers have traipsed down some perilous paths.

Yes, we're talking about micromanagement. It's a natural tendency, even among seasoned managers, to think close examination of a direct report's work will improve it. Sure, such scrutiny might reveal opportunities for improvement: processes she could streamline, shortcuts she's taking that undermine quality, shortcuts she's not taking that she should.

But tread this path too often, and any gains realized from process improvements will be offset by the deleterious effects of disengagement.

What is disengagement? Fundamentally, it is a state of distance from one's work. A disengaged employee puts in time but little else, and his apathy affects not only his own productivity but that of his colleagues. Because a consistent pattern of micromanagement tells an employee you don't trust his work or his judgment, it is a major factor in triggering disengagement.

And disengagement is costly.

According to the book 12: The Elements of Great Managing (Gallup Press, 2006), absenteeism caused by disengagement costs a typical 10,000-person company $600,000 a year in salary for days where no work was performed, and that "disengagement-driven turnover costs most sizable businesses millions every year." By contrast, engaged employees are more likely to show up to work, to stay with a firm longer, and to be more productive while they're on the job. Gallup research cited in the book finds that highly engaged teams average 18% higher productivity and 12% greater profitability than the least engaged teams.

The good news is that you, as a manager, have enormous influence over your direct reports' engagement levels. So what can you do to increase their engagement and hence their productivity? For starters, you can take a page from the Gallup playbook and make a practice of building on employees' strengths.

Say you have a direct report who rarely submits sales reports on time or fills them out correctly. Ask yourself, "At what tasks does this person excel?" Maybe he's great at troubleshooting customer complaints. Or he's a consistent source of creative ideas for the next promotional effort. Whatever his strengths, think about ways to build on them so that they can add more value to your organization. At the same time, see if you can minimize or redistribute some of the work at which he's less successful.

Budgets, capacity, and other constraints can sometimes make this impossible, and the best course will be to let the person go. But given turnover costs and the looming talent shortage, figuring out a way to make an employee's strength your strength is likely to be worth the effort.

Other actions you can implement:

• Be clear about performance expectations for new hires. As they grow more comfortable in their roles, lessen your direct supervision of their work.

• If you find yourself feeling consistently negative about a particular employee's performance, check that you're not falling into the set-up-to-fail syndrome described by Insead-affiliated management scholars Jean-Fran├žois Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux. This syndrome is marked by a downward performance spiral. The manager, expecting poor performance from the employee, starts noticing only mistakes and overlooking or minimizing successes. To avoid this pattern, regularly challenge your perception about the employee by asking yourself: What are the facts about her work? Is it as bad as I've been thinking? Of course, it may be that her performance is so bad that you'll have to let her go. But in some cases, adjusting your lens might reveal that she's actually doing some worthwhile work.

• You don't want to create a culture that says you're always right, and the employees are usually or always wrong. So invite employees to challenge your opinions. Over time, as they grow more comfortable in this role, they'll feel freer to discuss any performance concerns they have with you.

When your employees perceive that you value their strengths and their judgment, everyone benefits. As their engagement increases, it's likely that their performance will as well. And the time you might have spent micromanaging them can be put to more productive use.