Managing employees is a delicate balance between overseeing their day-to-day activities and ensuring excellent work product without micromanaging and squashing their will to think for themselves. To manage well, you need to be able to supervise by example and knowledge rather than nitpick through authority.
Technology can be your friend or your enemy depending on whether you control it, or it controls you. Apps and programs that handle accounting, time keeping, or a construction daily report, for example, help create fact-based and dispassionate information. In a manager-worker relationship, technology is the middleman, so it won’t matter if you don’t like someone’s style or the way they drum their fingers when they’re thinking. The necessary information is stored and accessible through an impartial forum.
Practice What You Preach
If you want your employees to be efficient, don’t waste their time with unnecessary meetings. If there is something that can be communicated simply, send an email. Make the subject line focused and searchable, and put the key information in bold. Avoid overly cutesy forms of communications such as making videos of yourself because this requires the watchers to have to rewatch the entire video if they missed a key piece of information. While meeting with employees, put your phone away. If it’s okay for you to be distracted with texts, then it will be okay for them to be distracted with texts.
Live and Let Live
Everyone has their own work style and just because an employee doesn’t work the same way you do, doesn’t mean they should be censured for it (unless it’s disruptive to others, of course). The bottom line is the work product. If someone on your staff works better late at night or early in the morning, if it’s feasible, let them do so. Being a manager shouldn’t mean requiring everyone to keep their paperclips on the left-hand corner of their desk just because you’ve determined that’s the most efficient place for them. Hold everyone accountable to the same standards but allow each employee to find his or her own groove without micromanaging.
Keep It Transparent
One of the biggest complaints from subordinates about their bosses is lack of transparency. It’s important to be completely clear and public on deadlines and quotas. Even though everyone might have a different style to get the job done, no one should ever wonder what it is they are supposed to be doing. Dressing downs should never be done in public though. If everyone knows the deadline and a person or team didn’t complete their work, that will be obvious to all without the added public shaming. At the same time, there should always be a public acknowledgment of a job well done.
Open Door Policy
An open-door policy sounds great on paper, but in reality, it’s very difficult to get your own work finished if there is a steady stream of pop-ins. A better way to handle “quick questions” is to train your employees to send the queries in an email with a particular header. Let your email sort all “quick questions” into a file. Set a timer to check this folder 2-3 times a day to efficiently dispatch answers without getting caught up in the constant barrage of requests. Instead of keeping your office door open, plan a lunch with every couple of weeks with groups of or with individual employees. This will give you a chance to get to know them better. Employees, especially new ones, might feel safer asking general questions over iced tea rather than risk disturbing you for something they’re not sure is important.
Never assume that everything is a-okay just because no one is complaining. A good manager will continue to ask questions about how a process can be improved or the workplace can be made more comfortable. A great manager will actually listen and respond to employee concerns that range from uncomfortable work chairs to supply chain efficiency worries.
Everyone suffers under micromanagement, but it’s not always easy to walk the fine line between keeping everyone squarely on task and acting like Big Brother. The bottom line and employee satisfaction often go hand-in-hand.