I have just realised that I have been under-managed most of my career.
Now to be fair I was the type of employee that desired autonomy, was self-directed and could be a little isolationist and possibly a little intimidating to tackle head on (so I have been told though, I find that hard to believe).
So, I actively encouraged a hands-off management style from my boss and in fact have spoken highly of bosses who gave me free reign and left me to my own devices.
Did I get the job done? Yes.
Did I do I good job? Yes
Did I make their life easier by not being the squeaky wheel or the person who needed constant direction and feedback? Probably.
But did I receive the direction, feedback, criticism, and challenge to really grow beyond my base level capability. I don’t think I did.
It seems to me that like all good ideas, empowering your employees has been taken too far down the continuum of good practice to the point where it has become detrimental to work outcomes and detrimental to employee development.
In deciding that micro-management is bad we somehow forgot the management is good. In extolling the virtues of ‘leadership’ we forgot that management was necessary.
So we have become enamoured with a style of management that is all about creating a vision, providing space for employees to be self-motivated and have become a little nervous about doing or saying anything that might deflate someone’s self-belief.
Micro-management is not helpful. Yet neither is-under management.
I would have gained so much more from a strong, supportive manager that didn’t let me get away with a minimum effort. My minimum effort was most often good enough but imagine what I could have achieved if someone was actively stepping in and holding me accountable for not taking my performance up another level. Someone who called me out when I got away with shortcuts. Someone who could guide and direct me to perform better.
My natural talent got me by, but under-management held me back.
I am not sharing this as a ‘poor me’ story. I take total responsibly for everything I achieved or did not achieve. It is just I have been reflecting a lot on management and the popular discourse of leadership. The importance of simple management behaviours such as setting clear goals, providing direction, delivering consistent and regular, honest feedback have gotten muddied rather than clearer.
Leaders hide behind performance management systems that dictate half yearly forms be filled out and they believe that is management.
Management is the daily or weekly conversations that enable people to course correct or step up before they get off track. Management is knowing your individual team member’s strengths, weaknesses and motivations and intentionally managing to their specific needs. Management is letting someone know when they have excelled AND what they could do next time to take it to the next level.
I was undermanaged and I now realise I undermanaged my team in the mistaken belief that I was a cool, hands-off, empowering manager.
There are so many layers to the idea of under-management; what it looks like, what its impact is and how to change it.
But for now, I would be interested in your perception of how you are managed and how you manage your team. Are you truly empowering or are you simply undermanaging?
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