Run OverOverheard: “If I don’t stay on top of my people, nothing gets done.”

If lousy leadership were a crime, the owner of the quote above might just merit a short stretch of quality alone-time to reflect on the implications of his statement.  There are so many things truly wrong with the style of leadership that the statement connotes, that I’m not certain where to start.

I regularly run into examples of leaders operating on the frontlines and even the top-lines that equate leading with policing and oversight. In sessions where I poll on the behaviors of great and lousy leaders, the horror stories of micro-managing bosses and inspector and critic style managers are so plentiful that it’s often difficult to rein in the discussions.

The perception that being boss involves constant policing has not yet been bred out of our culture.

There are certainly core issues that demand oversight. Issues of ethics, legal compliance, and discrimination all merit constant vigilance.  And maintaining appropriate operational control is absolutely a leader’s responsibility.   However, there’s a line that is crossed when the boss extends intense vigilance to the day-to-day and sometimes minute-to-minute work effort of team members. Move too close to this line or, cross it, and you guarantee a tense working atmosphere, a loss of initiative and a deficit of creativity. What should be a creative and productive experience becomes more like a prison experience.

Gaining compliance is not leading.  Any two-bit despot can gain compliance by inducing fear through excessive oversight.

In conversations with individuals describing leaders that they admire, commonly referenced behaviors are they exact opposite of the overbearing and over-the-shoulder manager:

Doesn’t micromanage me

Let’s me do my job

Asks me how she can help

Sets clear expectations and then lets me go

Doesn’t jump all over me when I make a mistake…but rather, he asks me what I learned.

We need more leaders that generate those types of comments from their team members.

11 Reminders that Your Job as a Leader is About Building, Not Guarding:

1. Focus on the working environment! You own the responsibility to create and sustain a positive working environment.  You cannot do that by micro-managing.

2. Create the right type of oversight by creating a culture of accountability for the values and norms in that environment.

3. You are a teacher. Teach and train. And then teach some more.

4. You are a coach. Observe and provide timely constructive AND positive feedback.  Everyday.

5. Be approachable, but don’t spend all of your own time approaching. Give your team room to run.

6. Create context, not confusion. Clarify and communicate. Create context for key organization strategies and goals.

7. Expectations and accountability drive performance. Set clear and challenging expectations for individual and team performance.  This is not micro-managing, it is good management.

8. Remember, you’re there to help, don’t hinder. Knock down obstacles and free your people to run.

9. Defend, don’t distract. Learn to shield team members from distractions. Keep your people free to run, part 2.

10. Stay out of the way. You are a distraction most of the time.  See the prior item.

11. Assert only when you need to. Don’t assert often.  If you have to assert often, review the prior 11 items.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

We’re all responsible for developing the next generation of leaders. Let’s get this right and help educate and train the micro-managing boss out of existence.