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Resources / Blogs / Why an Occasional Hands-On Leadership Approach Makes Sense: The Five Steps to Digging into The Details You Need to Lead.

Why an Occasional Hands-On Leadership Approach Makes Sense: The Five Steps to Digging into The Details You Need to Lead.

by Thuy Sindell, PhD. and Milo Sindell, MS.

When one hears the terms “hand-on” or “micromanagement,” what often comes to mind is the controlling, shortsighted, overbearing manager who, based upon insecurities or other issues, has to have their hands on everything. The cliché micromanager does not have the managerial or leadership style that one perhaps would want to shine a spotlight on as exemplary. The overbearing, ultra-hands-on style of the micromanager has numerous limitations, from the lack of independence and frustration it fosters in employees to the fact that micromanagement does not allow a manager or leader to grow or scale their responsibilities.

Before you write off the micromanager completely, it actually makes good sense to look at elements of the micromanager style that should be applied strategically. There are times when a hands-on approach makes great sense, such as when digging into the details of what an employee is doing on a crucial project, to asking a level or two of additional granular questions which can uncover missed opportunities or future problems.

Setting the stage

If you have been a hands-off leader or people manager in the past, it will be important to share with your people why you are taking a greater interest in their work, processes, and metrics. You will want to share that this is about you and how you want to be more effective as a leader, and that this requires making sure you are tuned to how things are going on your team and you are providing enough support. An alternative explanation is using a current situation or event and stating that you, based upon this event or current state, are looking into the details for how to make things better, etc. The important piece here is this is about you and not them—seek to minimize potential defensiveness.

ID the critical information you need

Create/confirm your data dashboard. All leaders should have a set of metrics that gauge their and the team’s success. These metrics should be your work- life bedrock. Here is an opportunity to review your existing metrics and ID new metrics that you should be tracking. Depending on your role, you need to have specific and current information. For example, if you are managing a product, you will need a dashboard where you can instantly reference the project schedule, feature timing, and what teams/individuals are working on. If you are overseeing manufacturing, you will need to see pending orders, finished product data, shipping dates, etc. Sales data would include sales targets, pipeline, the status of each customer in the pipeline, deal closes, etc. Schedule weekly meetings with the key people who are responsible for delivering results. Fifteen minutes is all you need to cover the status, questions, and actions required. Your role is to gather information, be a resource, and allow them to take ownership.

Ask for status updates as needed. Things can change on a daily basis. Don’t hesitate to ask for information as a situation changes, and don’t assume that everyone has a handle on changing circumstances. As the person responsible for the result or outcome, you need to know not only the status of what is occurring but the details of what is working, what is not working, and insight into potential issues. Your need to stay informed and be able to take action as early as possible. Digging into the details on a regular basis is the best way to make sure you are not surprised.

Ask the questions

Don’t assume you are getting all the details, or your folks have it all handled. Dig into the details of the important items where you need to know what actions will be taken to solve a problem, hit the sales number for the quarter, or innovate. Good leadership requires that you know how your people are going to get things done. Knowing their thoughts allows you to add to the conversation and help solve the problem. The key piece is giving your people space to own the solution: ask the questions, provide guidance, and provide resources as needed.

Root out poor performers and development opportunities

Flipping the micromanager switch is a fantastic way to shine the light on and initiate a range of employee conversations. If your questions and exploration into the details are met with resistance, take this as an opportunity for an interpersonal dynamics adventure. Resistance to your digging into the details can come from a range of sources, from employee insecurity and misunderstanding about why you are digging into their roles or job function, to unearthing poor performers who have been hiding behind their titles or purported knowledge.

If the defensiveness continues, take this as a sign to dig deeper. Ask them about their goals, how they are tracking, and what you can do to help them. If they state that you may not understand as they have a certain expertise in an area, ask them to explain in layperson’s terms. Dig deep until you feel like you know what they are doing and how they are going to achieve their goals. Approach with curiosity and openness. Poor performers will continue to be defensive, and the more you explore, the more apparent it can become that they are not the best match for the role.

In summary

When used judiciously, elements of micromanaging can be an effective route to ensuring you are maintaining a solid grip on achieving the objectives of your role and team. Getting into the details sends a signal, confirms to employees that you are engaged and committed to success, and can lead to unearthing potential business problems and personnel issues before they become bigger issues.

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