While some managers have the best intentions at heart and simply get carried away in managing their employees’ day-to-day work, there’s a different breed of manager that the entire office fears and despises: the micromanager.
There’s a fine line between effective leadership and management and micromanagement and, unfortunately, it’s one that is crossed all too often. If you’ve ever worked for someone who kept hovering over you every single second of the workday, monitoring your progress, obsessing over every minor detail, and providing you with detailed instructions on how to do your job, you’ll know that crossing that line has some very dangerous and long-term side effects– skyrocketing turnover, productivity grinds to a halt, progress is almost non-existent and most people will sit back and wait to be told what to do versus taking initiative.
The problem described above leads us to our topic today: fostering a workplace where everyone is a leader.
The Transparent Organization
Matthew Shaer wrote an article in New York magazine a few years ago entitled The Boss Stops Here discussing the state of flatter-transparent organizations and the evolution of bossless environments. This topic was picked up by NPR’s OnPoint radio show where I was a guest on the program—needless to say, we had quite an interesting conversation regarding this topic.
Why We Don’t Encourage Top-Down Management Styles
As you may recall from my stories in It’s Your Ship, the military invented and perfected the top-down command and control environment, but I don’t think it works anymore with today’s workforce. Not only are we more globalized, but with social media and the internet, we now are privy to what’s going on in every other organization. Our people are also much more demanding. They want more than just a job, they want a work experience. In my experience, I found that a top-down approach just doesn’t inspire commitment, it doesn’t create cohesion, and it doesn’t get the results we need to stay ahead in our competitive world.
The Keys to a Successful Bossless Organization
Years ago, even before hearing the term “bossless,” while in command of USS Benfold, I began to transform my leadership style to do just that—be a leader, not a boss. I partnered with my crew to create an environment fueled by three key attributes: trust, ownership and no fear. These attributes created the foundation for our success. On Benfold I often said, “It’s Your Ship,” signaling to the crew that they had the responsibility and the power to be their own boss. It was up to all of us to create the workplace of our choice—not just mine.
Maintaining Leadership within a Bossless Organizations
Let’s get one thing straight — a bossless organization is not a leaderless one. Leadership is about setting the tone and direction for the entire team, division and organization that makes it possible for bossless to become a reality. Only when you combine great leadership with direction and a great culture, can you unleash the talent, innovation and accountability of your people. This potent combination is the fuel that will drive your people’s productivity, performance and ultimately your bottom line.
Shifting Your Focus as a Manager
So how do you begin to allow your people to step up and take on more accountability and responsibility, so they can be more self-directed? It starts with both sides look owning their actions. If you’re a leader, do you need to “let go?” and shift more of your focus to leading not managing? Do you share the WHAT you need your people to do and WHY it’s important and then leave the HOW to them?
Shifting Your Focus as a Team Member
As a team member are you looking for ways to lighten your leader’s role and help support the goals of the team and organization? Are you waiting to be told what to do and when to do it or are you coming up with creative solutions to challenges? Are you being solution-focused (here’s what we can do) versus problem-focused (here’s why that won’t work?)
Tips for Boosting Collaboration
As you try to shift and share ownership to boost productivity and collaboration, here are a few, yet powerful approaches to help leaders let go and employees step up:
Get to the root of the problem
If you are coping with an overly-involved managers, it’s helpful to understand where they’re coming from. Job insecurity, pressures brought on by superiors or even a more structure/risk adverse style may lead a boss to be too involved in their teams’ duties. Remember everyone has a different style and comfort level when it comes to change, details and communication. Spend time with together trying to understand what you both need to feel comfortable that the work is getting not just done but done well. As a team member, remember before you point all the blame towards your manager, it pays to contemplate why it’s happening. Is it merely your manager’s personality, or are your actions (or inactions) to blame? Think about your performance over the past couple of months. Hold up the mirror up to yourself. And see if there is something you could change or do differently too. Is there something in your past that might be causing them to feel they have to keep tabs on you?
Keep each other in the loop
Schedule regular check-ins with your leader so that they feel part of the process or send unprompted emails with any important information about the progress of a specific project. Find out the best way to communicate with them and the frequency that will make them comfortable. I always tried to stay one step ahead of my leaders, so they never felt out of the loop. The fascinating part was the more I communicated the way they wanted the less involved they became over time. If you’re a manager be proactive about what you expect. Be clear about what it is you want and need to feel comfortable – be explicit. What success looks like, impact it will have on the team’s goals and organization. Where you’d like to be included and where do you feel comfortable with them making charge or making decisions. Pop over or check in see what you can do to support them – not just for an update. Give regular feedback. As more questions versus telling – you’ll be amazed at their performance and engagement.
See it through their eyes
Talk to your manager to determine which projects on her agenda are most pressing and give those your focus and attention. If you show that you have things under control, she might manage to relax a little. You can ask them what they expect from you and to lay out all the tasks they want you to perform. And don’t be afraid to ask them questions or to clarify things for you. This will allow you both to share your points of view and ensure you both know what success looks like. As a leader, get their perspective. I always said that the answers to my toughest questions resided right outside my cabin door. Ask them to share their ideas, perspective and ways to tackle your challenges. Remember, just ask!
Get Help Implementing a Bossless Office Today
At the end of the day, a bossless leader drives the creation of a workplace where everyone shows up as owners. You’ll see your team come together in an environment where each team member has each other’s backs and being the best is their only objective.
Whether you’ve worked with us in the past, or you could use some help initiating a new leadership style in your office for the future, we encourage you to give us a call. You can reach us at 800-501-2421 – we look forward to helping your organization succeed!