How to walk that fine line between micromanaging and keeping track of the work

It could be tough to be leading a team right now, because while you’re wondering “Are they getting the work done?”, you also don’t want to be seen to be micromanaging, or increase your team members’ anxiety through being over-controlling. 

At the same time, more than ever you probably need your team to be productive, and you want confidence that your team members are making good use of their time. 

Define success clearly

Part of the solution is the quality of the conversations you have with your team about the work they’re doing. A poor quality conversation leaves you and that person unclear. This then creates room for error, doubt and uncertainty. A great conversation gives you quality information about the progress they are making. 

Being vague is unhelpful. It can quickly trip you up. Instead, a good quality conversation is one where you look for specific answers about the things that are important about the work.  

Your conversation could be over video – synchronous, or asynchronous – via a shared document. 

Stick to a framework

In my team we use a process we call ‘The Lens’, to ensure we’ve covered what is important about the work. 

The Lens defines the  goals, standards, action steps, roadblocks, outcomes, specific measures and the dollar or time allocation for the work. Together these discussion points mean there is very little room for confusion and mismatched expectations.

Recently I needed one of my team members to do a completely new, unfamiliar piece of work in a short timeframe, with no existing processes to guide her. We didn’t have time to talk about it face to face, so I gave her the task in writing.

Knowing it was new, I spent a bit longer writing out my explanation. I opened the door for questions, but I also stuck closely to The Lens framework to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. It made both our lives a lot easier. Without any further exchange, she delivered exactly what I was looking for – a satisfying job well done.  

Of course, you may not have a clear idea about your answer to each of those elements, but the process forces you to gain clarity. Doing this together, you pick up your team members’ input and get a higher degree of engagement. 

For me this is all about having an outcomes-driven work culture, to maximise the productivity of my team. My team appreciates it too because it gives them something they can control at a stressful time – autonomy, rather than restrictions. 

So keep that in mind next time you need to talk with your team about work or to get an update. Have good quality conversations, that are specific about what is important. You’ll be giving people autonomy, which can help to reduce their anxiety at this difficult time and prevent you from coming across as a micromanager.

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