We’ve all heard about the problems with micromanagement. But the opposite has its issues too. The buzz words in management all focus on assembling a great team and letting them “do their thing.”
But is it really as simple as that? Some management experts are saying that the pendulum has swung too far and that structure is essential for teams to function properly.
The Hated Micromanager
Tanya Menon, an Ohio State University professor and author of Stop Spending, Start Managing, told Harvard Business Review that part of the issue is cultural. Americans are very wary of having someone look over our shoulders all the time. With micromanagers being particularly derided, people tend to think that being completely hands off is better.
“We’ve been oversold on this idea that you should just be free,” she said. “Sometimes as a leader you want to believe in this delegation and empowerment. . . . The solution, many believe, is to hire the right people and let the magic happen.”
When People Don’t Know Their Roles
Menon says the classic case of macromanagement is when a group of superstars is assembled. In athletics, music, and business, these superstar groups’ results often fall short of expectations.
You may have a very talented group of people, but a lack of structure will lead to people being uncertain of their roles. Then people will start doing things outside of their expertise, which will lead to conflict. Menon says you need those supporting role players for the operation to run smoothly.
Giving up Ownership of Results
Eric Gnospelius writes on LinkedIn that the Food Network show Restaurant Impossible is a particularly good example of the macromanagement phenomenon.
The failing restaurants that the experts come in to fix are often in that state because management has allowed them to fall into a state of neglect. These managers give so much freedom to their employees that they no longer have any ownership over the business’s results.
Finding a Middle Ground
Of course, there are good reasons why micromanagement has been criticized. It stifles creativity, creates a hostile work environment, and leads to employee dissatisfaction.
Management experts tend to agree that a middle way between the two is essential. Having regular conversations with employees and setting basic ground rules are good ways to build a structure in which employees can succeed. Assign roles, hold people accountable, and set reasonable expectations. Striking that perfect balance with your team will always be a work in progress.
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