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Virtual Leadership is highlighting poor management and a distinct lack of trust

Updated: Sep 20

Micromanagement in all its glory!

“Micromanaging” — Source unknown

Have you ever been micromanaged? Oh gosh, I have. I have quit jobs because I got tired of being micromanaged. That style of management just doesn’t work for me.

Employees don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers.

While this is not entirely true — job design has a huge impact on employee retention and attrition as well — employees do indeed accelerate their departure when they have a bad boss. In the wake of our new reality and the move to digital and remote working, micro-managing is becoming even more destructive than ever before.

I am hearing stories of people quitting their jobs or planning to, because after several weeks of being micromanaged whilst in their homes, they realise there is no trust. Their managers don’t trust them. Consequently they are losing trust in their managers and the companies they work for. In fact, there are so many check-ins and requisite reporting, that they don’t even have time to do their actual work!

While in the office you can compensate for poor management with support, coffee breaks, colleagues that can commiserate — misery loves company — in the virtual environment it is just impossible to avoid the lack of trust that becomes evident, and poor management style is shining through!

It doesn’t have to be this way!

. . .

What is micromanagement?

In a nutshell, it’s about trying to control an employee’s every activity, however small. I am not talking about check-ins or giving direction, I am talking about absolute control over every task, a complete lack of trust, right down to a line being a millimetre off on a presentation from where the manager thinks it should be!

It is usually an indication of insecurity or fear within the manager themselves, but that’s another story for another time!

Have you ever tried to control someone? What was the result? Children are a good example of our innate lack of control — “Stop fidgeting!” — and of course incessant fidgeting persists. The only thing we can control and manage is ourselves and our reactions. So when someone else tries to take away the little control we have, we instinctively react by resisting it.

Managing someone’s activities is not a bad thing.

Of course it is necessary to have oversight and involvement in your employees work. However understanding your employees and what motivates them, is core to understanding what kind of management style is required.

And trust is a must.

. . .

Micromanaging in a virtual environment

So how does this show up in a virtual environment? A friend of mine is an entrepreneur and so his own boss. His wife is not. Just the other day he explained what was happening with her in this remote working situation.

Okay to set the foundation: This couple is diligent and dedicated. I trust this woman and I know she works hard. Really hard. So the story actually stunned me — and then shocked and angered me!

  1. First, the manager set up weekly meetings, to discuss any topics that need discussing, a team call. This is fair, it should happen in-person or virtually, hopefully succinct and actionable topics only!

  2. Second, her manager relayed that he didn’t know what she was working on day to day, so could she please add it to the calendar so he had oversight. Sure, this seems like a lot of work, but fair enough.

  3. Third, he questioned why she was not giving a play-by-play to the entire team and discussing exactly what she had worked on each week. Hmmm, they have access to the calendar and the tasks are unrelated and don’t require their action or input. Interesting…

  4. Fourth, he comes back again and said he was going to book regular calls with her one-to-one, and the only intent of that call was for her to tell him exactly — point by point — what she had done, was doing, and give progress reports. Whoa.

Here are the two real issues that are evident in this scenario:

  1. The extra time to enter everything into the calendar and the addition of more meetings per week so that there is full reporting of activities, is reducing the actual working time by hours, maybe even by days

  2. The bigger issue here is that in the course of one week he made it clear that he does not trust her

Yes, we can argue that there may be many reasons for this reaction but the reality is that I am hearing these stories over and over again from multiple sources, this is not geographically specific, it is happening across the world.

Here is the reality of the situation. The managers who do not know how to lead in-person are even worse virtually. They are fudging their way through, and clearly are missing a golden opportunity to grow as leaders, to show employees that they value them and do trust them.

What a missed opportunity!

Don’t lose great employees

A leader I admired very much, once said “The only job I have, is to make sure you are successful” and he lived it. Our success in turn reflected on him as a successful manager. Your job is to make sure your team is successful.

  • No one trusts a leader who doesn’t trust them

  • No one wants to work with a leader who micro-manages

  • No one wants to spend more time proving they are working than actually working!

Here are five tips to improve your virtual leadership style!

  1. Trust your team. You or your company hired them so clearly they know how to do the job!

  2. Define the deliverable. Give them clear information on the task, parameters, and deliverable required

  3. Delegate ownership. Let them own the process for getting to the solution, whatever that process is, and get out of the way

  4. Advise as needed. Provide the tools and advice they need, when they need it

  5. Schedule check-ins. No, not to check up on them, but to make sure they are on track and can ask for help, here you can course correct or simply to provide your expertise.

Doing this will increase productivity and success; micromanagement rarely — if ever — achieves greatness.

. . .

Delegation works if you trust people and give everyone the chance to prove that your trust is not misplaced. Then adjust. Iterative learning isn’t just for employees, it’s for management too. Of course, you can micromanage if you want to, but remember…

Robots are the only thing you can control, and quite frankly - they don’t need managers.

. . .

Raj Hayer, TinyBox LinkedIn| Instagram

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