Q: How do I advise a leader who is concerned about employees taking advantage of company time (with internet, smart phone, email, etc.) and wants to micromanage "without micromanaging?"
A: This is actually a question about one of the most important aspects of leadership: it is all about relationships. Leaders have to build relationships with constituents that result in a clear understanding of expectations.
As we learn to operate within more of a virtual workplace and manage people who are not in physical proximity to the leader, this type of question, in fact, is becoming more and more prevalent. It is becoming more important than ever to be exceedingly clear about expectations. And to be as clear as possible, expectations must be discussed and agreed upon up front. Both the leader and the constituent must be clear on productivity goals—goals as measurable performance indicators that clearly identify what constitutes outstanding performance and what would be considered average performance.
In the research, we see many instances that demonstrate the importance of setting clear goals, plus feedback, in order to achieve results. You cannot have one without the other. Therefore, clear goals become the first way to avoid micromanaging. In this way leaders focus on the outcome and performance measures, and leave it up to the constituent to determine the means by which to achieve the results. Leaders who present themselves as coaches rather than directorial managers seem to have more success managing in this way.
In The Leadership Challenge® Workshop, we discuss this move from micromanaging to supportive and facilitative leadership mostly in the last two practices, Enable Others to Act and Encourage the Heart. In Enable Others to Act, it is especially helpful when understanding how leaders get and keep people in the "flow". Again, by knowing our constituents and building stronger relationships, we can determine with them whether they need more challenge in their job or they have the necessary skills to perform at an expected level. Optimal performance requires both continuous challenge and skill development to remain in the "flow" and having these coaching discussions on a regular basis can keep a leader from micromanaging tasks and focused on results.
In Encourage the Heart, an essential skill is to "Expect the Best" where successful leaders have high expectations of constituents and use this belief to help constituents set high goals for achievement. A great leader brings out the best in others by helping to set and give feedback on achieving stretch goals. Here the focus is on achieving the goal not standing over an individual's shoulder waiting for a mistake to be made.
Today's fast moving and technically-expanding world requires that leaders spend more time on results, not on the means. And that, in itself, requires a focus on the ever-important building of relationships. Strong relationships are what allow us to know what we need to do to help constituents get and stay engaged, and keep them motivated through the challenging work of building the skills they need to succeed. This is not an easy thing to do. And it is why it is a leadership challenge.
Stephen Hoel is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge® Workshop and president of Diversity Leadership Consultants, a leadership development organization focusing on improving the effectiveness of leadership and team skills. Experienced in both operations management and human resources with Walt Disney World Resort, Hilton, Marriott and other independent hotel and restaurant organizations, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.