Don’t Under Manage Either!

Last week, I touched on the dangers of being an “over manager”.  This week, I wanted to discuss the flip side to that- what happens when you “under manage” your team.  We have all had that type of manager- super confident that they put the right people in the right seats on the bus.  They spent all day “doing their work” and not a lot of time with their team.

When you truly have a high functioning team that needs little day to day supervision, the results can be spectacular.  Your team is motivated to succeed and you simply need to guide them in the right direction.  Your confidence in them is at an all-time high and their faith in you as a leader is not questioned.  You are able to focus on the big picture, knowing that the team will handle the tasks necessary for success.

However, you must remember that you needed to help the team get to that level and that there is a delicate balance to keep them operating at their peak.  Winning teams have losing streaks and without an artful leader, things can devolve in a hurry.  According to an article in the Rochester Business Journal from 2005, only 10% of managers were considered highly engaged with their team*- and we can guarantee that number hasn’t increased.

To avoid under managing your team, make sure you constantly:

  1. Check in with each member of your team.  My rule was ten minutes with every person every day.  It enables you to ask questions about their challenges and how you can remove their roadblocks.  By talking to them instead of emails and texts, you get a feel for their attitude, enthusiasm and frustrations.
  2. Give honest feedback.  Not every team member is an expert in every facet of their job.  By being involved, you can see where they need to improve.  Remember the lessons you learned from Situational Leadership- manage the tasks as well as the person.
  3. Check with the key groups your team works with- i.e. other departments, customers, vendors, etc.  You need to know how your team as a whole and your individual team members are performing in the eyes of the stakeholders that influence your success.
  4. Raise the bar.  Discuss during your team meetings how things can go better.  Solicit their input and achieve buy in on the new ways to accomplish your goals.  It may be a communication technique or a new report to review.  Whatever it is, make sure you are keeping complacency from creeping into your team.
  5. Admit mistakes.  Even the perfect team may have members who are not a good fit.  Make sure you identify those individuals and make the right efforts to save or replace those people.  Nothing kills a team like bad chemistry- just ask Chip Kelly.

Being a leader is hard work.  You need to delicately balance over and under managing to get the most out of your team.  Focus on the right balance and you will be a super leader.

* Avoiding the perils of hands-off management, Candace Walters, Rochester Business Journal, 01/28/05

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