As a business grows, the need for higher quality leadership becomes critically important. You need a very different mindset and skillset to manage a company of $100 million than you do a company that's trying to reach its first million.
As a strategic coach, one of my most important jobs is to raise the bar on the leadership skills of the top team to help them create an effective management system throughout the company.
One of the most important issues we address at all levels of management is the tendency for folks to want to micromanage their people. Here are six things I helped leaders focus on that will reduce the chance that their people feel overly managed.
1. Focus on the results
Too often I see managers telling their reports how they should complete a task. They write down detailed instructions for exactly how to get the work done, including all of the little techniques and tricks.
Instead, I encourage managers to focus on defining what the end results should look like. By defining the end goal and clarifying expectations, you allow the direct report the freedom to decide the best way they're going to get there. It both encourages them to own the process and allows them to make improvements and innovate.
2. Clarify key boundaries
While you want to give your employees lots of space to explore and try things, you need to give them a clear indication of the limits of their playing field. This will both reduce your concern about the directions they go in and also reduce their fear that they might step over the line.
3. Set deadlines and checkpoints
When delegating work, it's important to clarify exactly when things need to be done and to what level. Establishing clear deadlines will allow everyone to plan to work effectively and to ensure time frames are met. While I encourage managers to provide buffers to schedules, you shouldn't create a false sense of urgency.
It's also important to establish checkpoints along the way that allow you as a manager to confirm that progress is being made and verify that the work is meeting expectations. I always want to see a checkpoint timing set so that, if there are issues, everyone has enough time for a manager to take corrective action and not risk project success.
4. Give constructive feedback
Every project is an opportunity for learning, both as a manager and as a direct report. Giving feedback along the way is critical for professional development and growing your people. If you just take over the task or allow work to be done below standards, you're setting yourself up for problems in the future.
The key to giving feedback is to create the right context, focus on objective and measurable observations, and help the employee to create new strategies that will allow them to be more successful in the future. Making feedback a frequent and regular occurrence will help make it part of the normal process and reduce fear and anxiety.
5. Provide support and resources
One of the most important things that a manager needs to do for their people is to provide support and resources for them to be successful. This might be as simple as transferring your knowledge and insights about the problem. It might also include providing training, tools, and third-party services that will allow them to complete the job. You also want to use your power and authority to remove obstacles and roadblocks that are in your people's way.
6. Incorporate learning time
One of any manager's key responsibilities is to grow their people. You can't do this without making investments of time and money. It's important to look for opportunities in day-to-day work that will challenge your direct reports and help them learn new skills and give them more experiences.
This may include adding extra time and budget to a project so they have the opportunity to learn. While it can be a significant investment, it's one that will provide exceptional returns in the future.
The fact is, micromanaging is a natural tendency for just about every manager. It takes a conscious effort and focus to change that behavior. By focusing on the strategies above, you'll not only empower your people to be more successful, you'll also make your job as a manager much easier.