The toughest transition in management is going from managing a job function to managing both a job function and other people at the same time.
When you’re only managing a job function, all the work and results are on your shoulders. Everything succeeds or fails based on your efforts alone. There should be comfort in this! With these parameters, you can set your own pace and priorities with only the calendar deadlines in mind. You determine when you have to work longer hours and when you can cruise. You control what does or doesn’t get done.
But oh how all that changes when you’re managing other people!
Suddenly, you’re expected to not only do the work — but to share it with others and make sure they do their part, too. Every task and project forces you to consider the time and talent of others. You have to think about their skills and abilities. You have to think about their needs and expectations. And you still have to think about the deadlines and results to be met.
Managers who are new to the supervisory function often find themselves frustrated and out of balance trying to find the right combination of delegation and development opportunity for themselves and the people who report to them … truthfully, even those who’ve been in the supervisor game for awhile struggle with this. Knowing where to draw the line on entrusting the work to your team or doing it all yourself never gets easier.
The reality is that you can’t do it all yourself. If that were possible, you wouldn’t even have a team. Companies don’t waste resources on unnecessary staff these days. If you’re fortunate enough to have support staff, you better take care of them and keep them busy with value-adding work.
That doesn’t mean you can just delegate and be done with it. Successful supervision is not achieved without significant effort. When you assign tasks to be completed, you have to follow up to make sure they are done completely and correctly. This is the cornerstone of accountability. It’s not about checking up on people or assigning blame when things aren’t done. It’s about making sure the integrity of the job function you’re responsible for remains in tact. It’s about protecting the reputation of your function, department and ultimately your organization.
Unfortunately, supervisors struggle with balance here too. In the effort to ensure all the work is done, supervisors are often accused of micromanaging their subordinates. However, there is a difference between micromanaging and holding a person accountable. It is important for supervisors to know the difference.
- Micromanaging is exercising unnecessary control over the processes involved in completing work in effort to ensure certain outcomes. Micromanaging discourages and stunts the development of subordinate employees. Micromanaging hinders general growth and improvement of process, talent and performance within an organization.
- Accountability is the obligation an individual has to explain activities and disclose the results to other interested parties. Accountability demonstrates responsibility for results and aids in the development of subordinate employees. Accountability encourages feedback and integrity. Accountability helps the growth and improvement of process, talent and performance within an organization.
One is about control, the other is about responsibility. One hinders, the other helps. One is bad, the other is good and very necessary. See the difference?
So the next time you’re wondering if you’re being too hard on your subordinates by asking lots of questions, making them correct work or explain the reasoning behind their decisions, think back on these definitions and decide if you’re really micromanaging or just holding them accountable. If your intentions are to help them grow to the best level of performance possible, it’s not micromanaging — it’s being a good supervisor. Keep going and don’t stop.
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