Accountability vs micromanagement

Today, a quick share from our company off-site. Some company thoughts on accountability vs micromanagement for senior managers.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

There are three main ways you can take your company from where it is now, to where you want it to be tomorrow. The first, which typically does not work in the medium or long term, is to do everything yourself. You in fact are THE senior manager, and everyone else in the company just helps you in your execution. Good luck doing that long term. I know amazingly extra-ordinary people who, regardless of their drive and passion, operated in this way, and burnt out.

Another way you can approach things is by taking a micro-management approach — In this scenario, you have a tight leash on not only the output of the manager and his team/s, but also how the manager operates. This might work well with middle management or junior managers, but typically when you work with a senior manager, who is responsible for elements of strategy, and potentially oversees one or more teams in the organisation, it can feel like being suffocated.

When you micro-manage, you are probably doing it with the right intent, i.e. to produce the desired outcome that the business requires, but the method may, for a senior manager, be more suffocating than performance enhancing. When working with a senior manager, remember they are most likely to be in that senior position because they have proven a fair bit in their career so far, and therefore their methods and ability to produce are known.

When a VP or CEO feels the need to review all the manager’s work in detail, do some of the manager’s work, or wishes to modify or clarify part of a senior managers’ methods, it may mean that they are unsure of the method itself, don’t believe time/resource is wisely allocated, or just don’t see the required results. In this case, the senior leader should speak with the Senior Manager in a one-on-one meeting and guide them towards a clear understanding of what the manager is concerned about. Correcting a senior manager in public, or taking over a senior managers’ meeting when things aren’t going in the way of the VP or CEO, typically demonstrates insufficient or poor communication between the two senior parties. It also doesn’t help building trust between the senior manager and his/her team.

Finally, you can work on accountability

Accountability means that I (the VP / CEO) trust you and your methodology will bring the company “Y” results and that what you say, you will do. Accountability means that I am not looking at the how, but I am looking at the what. It doesn’t mean I cannot ask how but it does mean that the expectation (and trust) is much stronger. Typically, conversations between a VP/CEO and Senior Manager will revolve around “why” and “how did you come to this” questions.

I believe there is a place and time for each type of management. Sometimes, you just need to DO, and in modelling, you will set a fantastic example. Just don’t “do” always. Other times, you need to micro-manage. A strong leader takes full responsibility for your team’s outputs and sometimes, the best thing to do is to get into the detail to help the Senior Manager succeed. Just make sure that the “how” in your correction is properly considered.

Any finally, yes, I believe in accountability. Accountability works when the Senior Manager has the skills to deliver, understands the mandate, and is engaged in strong regular communication with the VP/CEO. IF a Senior Manager does not have one of these three, I would consider why he/she was hired as a Senior Manager and whether that is the best spot for them at the moment. You will have to coach your team always, so don’t mistake a skill gap with a maturity gap. Regardless of what you do, consider, measure and iterate to make you the best leader you can be. Your team’s results are ultimately your results.