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To Manage or Not to Manage?

By: Lisa Koning - Updated: 21 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
To Manage Or Not To Manage?

As a Manager, it may seem like a rather silly question: To Manage or Not to Manage? Surely this is the role of a Manager: To Manage! But there are times where a Manager needs to step back from a situation and not manage. The skill of the Manager is evaluating those situations that need their involvement, and those that don’t.

The Temptation to Over Manage!

As Managers we want to be in control. It’s important to understand what is going on and to be sure that everything is on track. The easiest way to do this is to either do it ourselves or to monitor closely the person doing the work to make sure it gets down correctly. Or is it? We simply cannot do everything ourselves and to try and do so defeats the purpose of being a manager. We have not time to concentrate on our managerial duties. To closely monitor the work of our staff is to micro-manage. This certainly isn’t easy, it isn’t practice, and for the staff involved it is not motivating.

And then to Under Manage!

Sometimes Managers go to the other extreme. They are busy with other items on their agenda and they simply throw work at their staff with little or no instructions. They are then rarely at their desks for their staff to ask questions of. The end result is staff struggling to understand what they need to do, and their motivate drops. The situation is further worsened when the manager is disappointed at the poor performance, and the staff member becomes even more de-motivated.

Getting the Balance Right

Managers do need to manage: they provide direction, allocate work, explain what needs to be done, and are available to give support if needed.

Give your staff the opportunity to contribute their ideas: possible approaches, different solutions, creative alternatives. Giving instructions is not about telling a person exactly what needs to be done. Allowing the person some scope to affect the outcome is motivating. It challenges the person and allows them to use their initiative. The fact that you have trusted them to come up with the right idea can be a boost to their confidence. It’s a positive "pat on the back"! If time permits, and the person has the right aptitude and abilities, then this is a very effective way to manage. It does mean that they may need to come back for further support, and that they may not get it right, but this approach is about staff development, and the more opportunities you give them, the better they will become at using their initiative. And the more your staff use their initiative appropriately, the easier your job is to manage them.

Getting the balance right is about allowing your staff to use their initiative, within boundaries where it is safe to do so. Staff need challenges to grow and develop their skills. But if it is way beyond their current abilities it may have the reverse effect and only increase the person’s stress levels. An effective manager needs to understand their staff’s abilities and challenge them accordingly.

A Manager in Control

Finally, a manager can still remain in control without micro managing. Being in control is monitoring the situation to ensure it is still on track. A manager can monitor without watching over their staff’s shoulder! It’s about creating a good working relationship with staff, where you feel confident that they will report any concerns to you. Regular short updates will give you a sense that the person knows what they are doing. Setting short-term goals with timeframes will ensure that any delays are quickly apparent, and any deviations can be swiftly addressed.

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