Agile & Digital / Matrix Management / Virtual Teams

One more time…micromanagement doesn’t work

With everything evolving at such speed nowadays, it is easy to feel out of control over what those we manage are up to.  The temptation is to ask for more status updates, interim reports and quick briefing calls. Like many temptations, in the long term this is not good for us or the business, and certainly not good for the people we manage.  Here’s why:

Having someone constantly check on your work and redo it if it isn’t ‘good enough’, rather than give you feedback to amend it yourself, erodes trust and leads to people disengaging. Remember what it felt like when someone micromanaged you in the past?  And absenteeism caused by disengagement costs $600,000 a year in lost salary for a company with 10,000 employees, according to research by Gallup.  Taking it to the extreme, a 7-year longitudinal study from Indiana University found that people in highly demanding jobs (aren’t we all?) who felt they had low control were associated with a 15.4% increase in the odds of death.

Whilst many of us might not quite yet feel at death’s door, another far-reaching study of 400,000 people in 63 countries found that when it comes to happiness – feeling like we have autonomy and control over our life (and work) matters more than money.

Finally, in today’s fast-moving digital world, there is no way we will able to keep up with the pace of our customers and competitors if we try to control every turn of the cog.  We have to let go. (At this point in a training session one of our senior consultants usually breaks into a rendition of the infamous Frozen song – go on, you know you want to).

So how can we let go AND feel we have sufficient control over all the projects we are juggling? In our sessions with clients all over the world we explore the need to continually balance trust and control.  The overarching aim is to allow those closest to the detail of the work to make the decisions – with our role as managers being to share the vision, inspire people to care and help remove any hurdles.  Technology can help too – with so much more detail and data documented in the Cloud and/or online collaboration tools, if we set up the right systems we can check that work is progressing as we hoped, without having to send a hundred emails.

As Netflix’s HR guru Patty McCord shares, “a company’s job isn’t to empower people; it’s to remind people that they walk in the door with power and to create the conditions for them to exercise it.”

Luckily our senior leaders should be on board with this. In a recent Bain survey of nearly 1,300 global executives, more respondents agreed with this statement about management than with any other: “Today’s business leaders must trust and empower people, not command and control them.” (Only 5% disagreed.)

So one more time, “let it goooo, let it goooooo”.

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