Let’s face it – when managing others, it can be tempting to dictate that the task is “my way or the highway”. It saves time, cuts down on questions, and doesn’t require managers to question whether they know best.
Unfortunately, managers often don’t know best, and nowhere is this clearer than when a manager regularly demands that projects be carried out in a particular way. Giving a team the freedom and flexibility to figure out the best solution to a problem takes more time, raises more questions, and requires constant readjustment and re-evaluation – but it often produces the best results as well, including employees who choose to stay with the company because they feel like their input is valued and they are given genuine chances to grow and develop.
How can managers strike the balance between “my way or the highway” and “do what you want”? Consider the following points:
- It’s all about balance. Micromanaging employees rarely achieves ideal results, but neither does a completely hands-off approach. Often, employees do best when they have clear goals and boundaries, but are given the freedom to assign tasks, schedule steps in the process, and try ideas out on their own. For instance, if your team is responsible for finding ways to reduce costs, consider giving them a specific goal – reduce costs by 10 percent over the next year, for example – but allowing them to develop ideas for how to do this and to field-test them.
- Make “choice time” clear. Employees who don’t know when they have a choice and when they must follow specific instructions quickly become confused and unwilling to try new things, lest they try to exercise a choice in a “rules-required” situation. Make it clear when employees have a choice and what their choice entails, and make it equally clear when employees must stick to a specific rule or instruction.
- Manager choice matters too. Every manager has his or her own methods of motivating employees and conveying information, based on the manager’s own personality and what the manager has found does or does not work. Allowing managers to lead and motivate according to their own methods, while giving them specific goals and standards, can improve an entire team’s motivation, retention, and productivity.
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