Being micromanaged is a common complaint and the negative effect that it can have on the team is well documented. But like lots of useless leadership advice, ‘don’t micromanage’ is not helpful and pushes leaders to go too far the other way to avoid the sentence of being labelled a micromanager. Teams are very quick to become #triggered and declare that their leader is a micromanager, but this is not the time to disappear. Fight through, double down, and make sure your time on the frontline is a positive experience for your team.
My overall guiding principle for every leadership problem or opportunity is to be deliberate. Take time to assess where you should physically be, and how you can maximise each interaction with your team to positively impact their day. Chris Fussell, in his book One Mission, talks about looking for opportunities to engage with leadership hubs. A leadership hub is a place where leaders within the organisation gather at the same time. A client I worked with recently took advantage of this, and Superintendents, Managers and the General Manager took regular opportunities to engage with Supervisors at the daily site Supervisor meeting. They kept it positive, didn't take over the meeting and over time built excellent relationships with the frontline leadership team. The adage of 'familiarity builds contempt' may be correct, but unfamiliarity is worse.
Self Assessment 1 - Am I deliberate on how I interact and check in with my team?
Receiving feedback is a skill just as much as delivering it is. When I see a frontline leader adopt a default coaching approach through the increased use of questions, there is initial reluctance from the team to engage. This reluctance fades overtime, and the leaders that remain consistent gradually build momentum and the team gets used to receiving feedback.
Self Assessment 2 - Am I consistently providing feedback and coaching to the team?
Often, leaders will only appear to deliver the news that the plan has changed. David Rock's SCARF Model identifies that strong emotional reactions are triggered if one or more of the five domains of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness or Fairness are triggered. By far, the most common area that I see being triggered in Mining and Construction is the Certainty domain. Use visits to the frontline to gain the teams' feedback and encourage input. Leverage their experience and work hard to ensure relevant recommendations from the team are considered by the planning team. See my post Change the Plan, Plan the Change to read more about managing this.
Self Assessment 3 - Am I setting the conditions for a change to the plan?
Finally, there is not a one size fits all approach to the amount of time you spend with each team member. Some need more than others, particularly those that are underperforming or are new to the team. Be upfront about an increased level of supervision or regularity of check-ins and clearly articulate what conditions need to be met for you to dial back the supervision.
Self Assessment 4 - Do those team members that need more or closer supervision to understand why?
Don't fear being called micromanager. Look for the underpinning reason for your team's reaction and develop a plan to address it. Be deliberate with your time and have a plan in place to ensure the time you spend with your team is positive for all involved.