By Mona Patel, founder and CEO of Motivate Design.
Being a great manager is tough. If you supervise your team too little, you risk underproducing and not meeting your end goals. But if you supervise too much, you could end up with a team of overworked and demoralized workers.
Unfortunately, over-supervising -- or micromanaging -- is far more commonplace amongst managers in today's workplace.
Anyone who has been micromanaged by a boss or co-worker knows that it doesn't help workflow or morale. Many employees either become so dependent on micromanaging that they can't produce results without it, or they burn out from being denied the chance to do work on their own terms.
So, why is micromanaging still the go-to management style for many managers? It comes down to control: The fear of being accountable for other people's work can lead managers to take extreme measures to keep track of their team. Recent reports have alluded to the possibility that 48 percent of employees worldwide aren't happy in their jobs.
Harvard Business Review blogger Christina Bielaszka-DuVernay notes that micromanagement is a big factor in those statistics. She writes that "a consistent pattern of micromanagement tells an employee you don't trust his work or his judgment."
What's the solution? Instead of micromanaging, try macromanaging. Macromanagement is a management style that's focused more on the "big picture" and less on the minute details of day-to-day operations. Macromanagers give general instructions on smaller tasks while putting in more effort to supervise larger concerns and instruct other leaders how to work effectively with their teams.
It's not necessarily a "hands-off" approach but, instead, puts the focus on vision rather than production. Here's how to be a good macromanager:
- Start with the end goal in mind. Macromangers focus on the final outcome. They care more about the "why" than the "how."
- Let people figure out how they will get there. Macromanagers give employees room to impress them, and trust them to come up with the right solution and processes. They hire people for their skills and creativity.
- Empower employees. Macromanagers encourage their employees to be proud of their achievements and help them learn skills that produce better results.
- Know when you need to step up, and when to step back. Macromanagers don't give people the answers but rather ideate with them and point out alternate ways of thinking that could lead to better outcomes.
Ultimately, macromanagement is about cultivating creative thinking and problem-solving in your teams instead of managing quotidian tasks. But one thing macromanagers should keep in mind is to not just walk away and leave employees to fend for themselves.
Companies can often get stuck in ruts because there are underlying issues with team structures, lack of skills, or a variety of other factors that would cause teams to fall apart without strong leadership.
If you're switching from micromanagement to macromanagement, you need to make sure that you've defined what success looks like and that you have employees with the necessary skills (who don't rely on micromanagement to succeed), as well as managers who are willing to shift gears into motivational and encouragement-based roles.
Here are some questions to ask before taking on a macromanagement position:
- How high are the stakes? Does the end goal suffer if macromanagement isn't successful with our current team?
- Will my team be negatively affected if the roles shift? Are they "burnt out" or are they too dependent on leadership at this point?
- Do my current leaders have the ability to take on new macromanagement roles? Do I need to look for or hire additional management positions?
- What are the risks and rewards of making the switch?
If you can confidently answer the above questions, you're more than likely in a good position to make the switch. While it can be scary to take a step back and give employees more freedom in the workplace, it can allow workers to produce higher quality goods and services, improve employee engagement, and make your business a better place to work.
Mona Patel is founder and CEO of Motivate Design, a user experience research, design and staffing shop.