The ONE Management Style That Makes Everybody Happy
All discussions about management style basically come down to one essential question:
How much oversight is too much oversight?
Most of us know “micromanaging” is a bad thing. We know that employees’ spirits are crushed under the weight of our constant observation, constant interfering, and constant questioning.
On the other hand, we do need to know what’s going on in our business. Are all team members meeting their targets? Do they understand what’s been asked of them? Is their vision aligned with our vision?
I recently spoke with a business owner who was struggling with this exact management style dilemma. He had hired someone whose job responsibilities had a significant influence on the operations and financial success of the business.
This employee was responsible for processing estimates as quickly as possible, making sure everyone was clear on what needed to be done, sending invoices promptly, and following up to make sure those invoices got paid.
The business owner didn’t want to be a micromanager. As he saw it, observing his team too closely hurt morale and implied a lack of trust. So, he left his new employee alone.
For almost a year, the employee managed himself on his own terms...
...and his approach did not meet the needs of the business or the expectations of his boss.
Even so, the business owner kept fighting with himself. He didn’t want to constantly hover over his team members. That’s not how he wanted to spend his time, and he didn’t want his staff to feel micromanaged.
So… did that mean he’d have to keep firing and hiring until he found an employee who was in total alignment with his expectations?
It sounds extreme, but these are the stakes when it comes to our chosen management style. The way we lead our team influences our employees’ abilities to rise to our standards. And unfortunately, a lot of business owners keep choosing the wrong approach.
Why Hands-Off Doesn’t Work
If the story above resonated with you, you’re probably the boss who prefers a hands-off management style.
You hired each team member for a reason. They’re good at what they do, and you believe they’re most likely to thrive when they know you trust their judgment and abilities. If you thought they needed a lot of hand-holding, you wouldn’t have brought them on in the first place.
There is some sound reasoning here. There’s also a good chance that you are a leader who gives a lot of thought to company culture.
But there is one fatal flaw to the hands-off management style:
As people, we often forget that our perspective is ours alone. When a gardener looks at a dandelion, he sees a weed. A child sees a wildflower. A botanist sees an herb. Nobody is wrong; they’re just viewing the situation through disparate experiences and objectives.
The same is true of your team. A problem that you perceive as a major threat to your company may only look like a minor obstacle to an employee. The sales opportunity that looks huge to you may seem less important to the sales person who’s focused on a different high-value lead.
Most importantly, your standards for job performance might not line up with your employee’s assumptions about what it means to be successful in her job.
Do you see where this is going?
A hands-off approach sets your team up to fail.
It’s a management style built from the unrealistic expectation that a good employee will give you the results you need without any oversight.
This is a foolproof formula for frustration, disappointment, and unnecessary losses.
Why Micromanaging Doesn’t Work
So, hands-off isn’t great, but micromanaging isn’t any better.
Most business owners who manage this way do so compulsively. They just can’t let things go. They are hyper-aware of the differences in perception I mentioned above… and they are hyper-aware of the fact that no one will ever care about this business as much as they do.
Many micromanagers don’t even feel like they’re making a choice when it comes to management style. In their minds, this is what they have to do to get the results they want. If they don’t constantly stick their noses in, the business will collapse.
That’s how it feels, anyway.
But that’s not how it is.
In truth, your business has absolutely no chance at growing if you’re not working on new projects, exploring new innovations, and building relationships with high-value clients and partners.
You know, the big picture stuff.
But you cannot possibly focus on growth if you are obsessing over the invoicing system and the way your techs prep the truck and how your receptionist answers the phone.
Yes, micromanagement is annoying to your employees, promotes a culture of distrust, and can tank morale. But it is also a massive waste of your extremely valuable time.
So what are you supposed to do?
The One Management Style That Actually Works
You don’t need to hover. You don’t need to take yourself out of the equation completely.
You just need an accountability system.
Set clear expectations. Ask yourself:
- What targets do I want this employee to hit?
- What metrics will I use to measure their success?
- How will I access that data?
- How can the employee access that data?
Once you know the answers to those questions, determine how frequently you are going to check in on your employee’s performance. You want to find the sweet spot: not so frequently that you’re suffocating the guy, but not so infrequently that you risk major losses by allowing big problems to go unnoticed. The answer to this question will probably vary depending on the job position.
After you’ve established your accountability system, share it with your team member. Be super clear.
Don’t just tell her you’re going to check in on her performance every month. Tell her what you’re looking for. What results are you hoping to see? How can she measure her own performance in the meantime? Ideally, you set her up to recognize problem areas herself so she can self-correct or proactively seek your guidance.
Believe it or not, one of the best tools you can provide for your employee is a job description. A solid job description clarifies all of the guidelines above, plus it helps team members see how their role fits into the larger company mission. If you’re not sure how to do this, try our free job description generation tool.
Like most things in life, the best management style is simply about balance. Be present, but don’t smother. Trust, but promote transparency.
Above all, give your staff the tools they need to help you build a thriving business.
Further Resources on This Topic:
Free Tool: Job Description Generator
Free Video Course: Accelerating Business Growth