Wanting to keep track of your team’s progress and productivity is normal — there's even dedicated performance management software for doing so. As a leader, you should have a level of control set in place to ensure that company goals are met.
In fact, a study from Leadership IQ shows that the optimal time an employee should engage with their manager is about six hours a week. This includes any email exchanges, group meetings, phone calls, one-on-ones, etc., which all contributes to the employee feeling more engaged, inspired and innovative.
This all sounds good right? Keep your employees engaged and they’ll be happier and more productive. The problem is, managers begin to blur the lines between checking in on employees regularly, and becoming a micromanaging boss.
Managers get too involved with their employees’ work that the team starts to feel discouraged and unproductive. It’s been proven by a study from the Journal of Experimental Psychology that people who feel like their work is constantly being monitored actually perform at a lower level.
So when you’re constantly checking in on your employees, thinking that you’re moving progress forward, you might actually be interfering and hindering their performance.
By default, I could easily tell you that the solution to that is to just trust that your employees will do their work and perform at their best, but we all know that isn’t really true, nor would it work.
So here’s the dilemma that leaders face: being too involved with their employee’s work makes them feel pressured and incapable, but not being involved at all makes them feel dissatisfied and disengaged. How do you find the balance then?
THE ACCOUNTABLE VS. MICROMANAGING BOSS
Let me first start off by explaining the difference between being accountable versus being a micromanaging boss.
A leader who is accountable for their employees takes responsibility over them. They make sure that their team understands what’s expected of them and that each individual’s responsibilities is properly communicated. Smart leaders allow employees to come up with solutions to their own problems and provide them enough room for self growth. This type of employee management requires a lot of open communication and honesty between the two.
The micromanaging boss on the other hand, takes the work upon themselves with little or no involvement of the employee. They stress over every little detail and are constantly looking over their employee’s shoulder without providing real, quality feedback on how to improve. In other words, trust is minimal.
And believe me when I say this - employees want responsibility. They want to be held accountable because responsibility gives a sense of higher purpose and achievement.
You want to be the type of boss that holds their employees accountable.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE THE BAD GUY
You’d be surprised to find out that one in two managers are actually terrible at accountability. Yup, thats right.
A survey conducted by Interact showed that 69% of managers are actually uncomfortable with communicating with their employees. Over a third (39%) of them said it’s because giving direct feedback that the employee may respond negatively to makes them feel uncomfortable.
The thing is, employees actually want feedback.
When HBR studied 899 individuals, 72% said that their performance would be better if managers provided valuable constructive feedback. In fact, when asked whether they preferred constructive or positive feedback, only 43% preferred praise/recognition while 57% rather receive corrective comments.
Holding your employees accountable doesn’t make you a bad guy. In fact, it makes you a smart leader. If you guide them properly, you’ll learn that your employees will respect you more as opposed to you micromanaging their every action.
Here are some ways you can stay involved with your employees, while avoid being the micromanaging boss.
1. GUIDE MORE, DO LESS
It’s easy to get frustrated sometimes and think that it would be faster if you just did all the work yourself, but that would make you a micromanaging boss. Rather than taking on all the work for yourself, resist the temptation and guide your employees through the tasks instead. Provide them with useful, constructive feedback and allow them to learn.
If they encounter a problem, let them take responsibility and come up with their own solutions. You’d be surprised to see how much your employees will improve if you provide them with the right tools and resources.
2. BE CLEAR WITH EXPECTATIONS AND GOALS
One of the biggest problems managers face is not being clear about what’s expected of everyone as a team and individually. When expectations are unclear, employees won’t know what’s required of them, which results in lower performance.
Instead, take the time to communicate to your team what each person is responsible for. Set company and individual goals with them and be clear about results you expect to see. When you do this, you’re giving them responsibility and you’re allowing them to be accountable for their tasks.
3. CHECK IN WITH ONE-ON-ONES
This is where the line between micromanaging and being accountable gets blurred a lot of times. You definitely want to be involved and check in with your employees, but you don’t want to be breathing down their necks at every second and picking on every little detail. This will discourage your employees and make them feel incompetent.
Rather, ask them how they’re doing and if they need any help. Consider setting up weekly one on ones with them for progress updates and a chance for you to provide valuable feedback. You want your employees to feel trusted. If you believe that they can perform at a certain level, they will believe that about themselves too.