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You're the Manager. So Manage.

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We've all been taught that the way to engage employees' souls at work is to hire bright people, put them in the right roles and then get out of their way. Especially younger workers; they hate having someone hovering over them, checking up, providing guidance they don't think they need.

Micromanaging is a bad thing. Right? But let me ask this: are we sometimes afraid to be accused of micromanaging when really all we're wanting to do is manage? Manage the function we've been given responsibility for, in the best way we know how?

Picture this: Stephanie, your administrative assistant, tends to do things at the very last minute. Not because she's lazy or forgets. She's not trying to make life difficult for you. Doing things last minute is just how she's wired. Which is not good or bad. It's just different from how you're wired.

So far, Steph hasn't been late on any tasks or projects. She's met every deadline. But you are convinced it's only a matter of time. (There are always variables we don't have control over...even Steph!)

For example, she was supposed to have the room set up and AV technology in place by 10:00 a.m. for the annual all-employee meeting. She finished right at 10:00 as the last employees were taking their seats. (Yes, she made the deadline. Meanwhile, you're in the wings, envisioning the worst -- like a sound system that's not going to be compatible with the laptop!)

  • Is it micromanaging to insist that Steph give herself a time buffer to allow for "just-in-case" scenarios?
  • Is it Steph's problem that you're seen as a Nervous Nelly, still living by the Boy Scout oath about being prepared even though you took off the uniform for the last time 30 years ago?
  • In situations like this, whose preference takes precedence?

If you're a manager, and you care about such things as:

  • Doing a quality job, not just "getting 'er done."
  • Providing excellent customer service for internal, as well as external, customers.
  • Creating a culture of clear expectations and consistent accountability, and
  • Nurturing a set of disciplines on which team trust and respect depend... 

...then it's perfectly ok to set expectations for Steph that might challenge her innate personality of "flying by the seat of her pants."

  1. Be fair in what you're asking for.
  2. Be very clear and specific in your expectations.
  3. Explain why it's important, not just for your comfort level, but for the good of the whole: for Steph, for the team, and for the organization.
  4. Don't expect instant perfection; allow for missteps; provide coaching as needed.

You're the manager, and your standards and comfort level -- if realistic, fair, and relevant -- are legit. That's not micromanaging. So don't be afraid to manage!

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