How Do I Find the Right Balance in Managing Others?

  • By Dan Maxwell
  • August 2022

tightropeGot 2 emails from this week that caught my attention; first, because I love the topic of balance, and second, because I’m into the topic of (personality) traits. The Monday post talked about micromanagement – and how to avoid it. As an Inc. follower observed, it didn’t really sound like the strategy offered solved the problem. And then there was the Tuesday post. The topic was remote work and how to manage it.

The common theme was managing details.

Traits come to mind so quickly when I hear this come up, because everyone responds to detail in two basic ways:

Big Picture Orientation – People who naturally delegate. These people are great at finding the real problem, pointing it out, and then passing it on to someone else to resolve; they don’t like the detailed parts.

Hands on (High Detail) Orientation – People that naturally execute. These people are great at figuring out all the parts, listing them, and then going to work on checking off each item on the list; they love the detail.

The challenge in every situation is: which one applies? and how much?

In the Tuesday post, there’s a perfect illustration of these two mindsets and the tension between them. One can’t leave the person alone … they are too “hands on”; the other doesn’t even check … they are too “big picture”.

Here’s a framework for evaluating which way to lean in your situation.

  1. You need to understand yourself – your own traits. We are hardwired one way or the other, and somewhere in between, as well … like the first illustration above where someone let go long enough to let someone try but needed to know if they ran into trouble. We call that a “Facilitator” mindset, and it’s a useful approach for supervision – not management.
  2. You need to understand the traits of your staff. They are also hardwired one way or another. If they lack detail, you’ll have to give them a list. If they get too involved, you’ll have to pull it away when it’s “good enough.”
  3. You need to understand the requirements of the job. This is the one objective way to decide whether it’s you or your staff member that’s missing the mark. Otherwise it will come down to your traits and your direct report will always lose. Getting clear about the job requirements will keep you both on track.

Follow this framework and you’ll be closer to hitting the mark on this tricky part of Managing others.

Your employees will get the right balance of trust and attention.

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