Posts Tagged ‘big picture’


“Check, double check and check again.”   This was possibly the best advice I received early in my career.

I followed through on my boss’ advice. I believe that this was the reason why it was noted on my performance evaluation that I was action-oriented and reliable without supervision.

In later years I realized that the checking, double checking and checking again advice wasn’t going to work for me or for the people I was leading.

During my very first role as a people manager, I understood that there is a fine line between being an effective leader and being a micro-manager.

Effective leaders know that they are ultimately accountable for the mandate that they have been given to deliver through the people they lead.

Micro-managers, in their zeal to produce results, get overly involved in the work of the people they lead.  These managers don’t confidently delegate and set expectations.  And when they do, they obsessively check, double check and check again on the work of their people, instead of letting their people, who are responsible for operations, implementation and deliverables, do the required checking.

I believe that micro-managers act the way they do mainly for the following reasons –

  • The fear of failure, which leads to the need to control other people’s actions
  • They don’t know how to manage any other way
  • They have an “agenda,” a personal need they want to fulfill

Here are 3 tips on how managers can avoid micro-managing, or can take to stop micro-managing and 3 tips on how employees can avoid being micro-managed.


The fear of failure and the need to control

For the manager –

  1. Gain clarity on the mandate you’ve been given. This means –
    • Identify the resources required – hire the right, competent people, ask for budgets
    • Set realistic expectations with your senior leadership and the people you lead on deliverables
    • Establish a formal schedule of checkpoints and accountabilities

For those being managed –

  1. Communicate confidentially with your manager to uncover the root cause of the fear of failure. This means –
    • Reassure your manager of your commitment and that you have his/her back
    • Mutually agree on how you will be accountable


Not knowing how to manage any other way

For the manager –

  1. Be courageous. Take feedback from your people and other managers seriously and seek ways to improve the situation.  This means –
    • Seeking mentorship and coaching from experienced, respected professionals you trust and who can help you to develop an effective leadership style.
    • Open communication in a dedicated forum (e.g. team meeting, off-site retreat) to discuss the mandated goals of the team and how team members will be empowered, engaged and held accountable.

For those being managed –

  1. Reduce your manager’s need to micro-manage. This means –
    • Proactively support your manager by honouring reporting commitments
    • Avoid surprises by forewarning your manager of possible delays and problems, and coming with suggestions for precautionary, preventive or risk reduction actions


The personal agenda or need the manager wants to fulfill

For the manager –

  1. Empowerment and accountability are essential for leadership success, regardless of what your personal agenda or motivation may be. Remember –
    • The mark of a great leader is the capacity to inspire and work with and through other people to achieve goals.

For those being managed –

  1. Find a way to see your manager’s “big picture” of what he or she is working towards. Observe and ask yourself a few questions –
    • What’s his or her motivation?
    • Who does he or she network with?
    • What’s his/her vision of the future role of the department or his/her leadership?


Important considerations

Managing people is not for everybody.  Managers who find it difficult to delegate and are caught in the micro-management trap should consider alternative leadership roles, such as an internal consultant, technical expert or advisor, and make an outstanding contribution to corporate objectives.

Moving on is an option for employees who are being micro-managed.   If excessive time and effort have to be invested in trying to understand and work with a micro-manager to the detriment of job satisfaction, engagement and optimal performance, the employee should decide whether to stay or to leave.




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A few years ago, I respected the request of a team member to go home at the drop of a cat. Yes, you read it correctly, at the drop of a cat. A fifty-something male member of my team stood teary-eyed in front of me and asked if he could go home to comfort his son who called to say that the family’s pet cat of 13 years was dying. Realizing that my team member was too distraught to complete an important report that we were set to discuss that afternoon, I let him go home and at the same time, I said that I would reschedule our meeting for the following day. In this situation, there was a healthy dose of empathy, balanced with the commitment to get the work done.

Empathy is that trait that allows you to understand the other person’s perspective, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their point of view or emotional response to a situation. As workplaces become more team oriented, cross-functional and dependent on communications technology, leaders are challenged to balance empathy with the ability to make decisions that benefit the company’s human and financial capital.

Listen carefully

Experience has taught me that empathy involves active listening to what is being said, how it is being said and why it is being said. Empathy requires us to get to know employees, their professional aspirations, perspectives, cultural differences and experiences that shape who they are and what they bring to the job and the team.

Armed with this understanding, I have come to realize that setting healthy emotional and professional boundaries with others strikes the right balance between empathy and the ability to make sound management decisions.

Set healthy boundaries

Healthy emotional and professional boundaries involve giving appropriate empathetic responses without compromising the commitment to deliver corporate mandates. Some guiding principles I follow are provided below:

  • Never play psychologist to a distraught employee. Offer help by referrals to employee assistance programmes (EAP)
  • Set limits on the frequency and time to hear complaints
  • Mutually agree and commit to specific actions to resolve issues and problems in the workplace
  • Accommodate professional preferences (e.g. assign special projects) without compromising on requiring the delivery of core mandates
  • When making a special concession, be clear about the conditions – e.g. extra time off for personal reasons should be made up at a specific time in the future
  • Be respectful about conflicting opinions, but establish the final decision and move on
  • Respect employees who want to have only a professional relationship and are not interested in social interactions, as long as it does not disrupt team-building and teamwork

This post was prepared for Your Workplace and was published in YW blog posts on 5 December 2012.

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September is a month of change and new beginnings.  Invitations to conferences and networking events resume after the summer break.  Students go back to school – some in new grades, others in new programmes and yet others are off to university.    I was quite pleased to accept an invitation to give the key note address to recipients of BASF scholarships a few weeks ago.  There they were young, very intelligent university students, bright-eyed and eager to succeed in their course of studies in preparation for the brave new professional world that they will face in a few years.

 I spoke about the importance of networking and that it is necessary to start networking now and not wait until the final semester before graduation.  My 15-minute presentation was based on three important facts –

  1.  On average it takes 5 months to get a job in Canada. For senior white collar jobs, it is generally longer – anywhere between 6 months to a year.
  2. 70 – 80% of all jobs that people hold have been obtained through personal recommendations or referral.
  3. In 1994, it was estimated that the average person would change jobs around ten times in their lifetime. By the year 2000, it was estimated that the average person would change careers three to five times in their lifetime. And only God knows what the estimate is in 2012!

 So what are these facts this telling us?

 The ability to build a strong network of professional, community and social contacts is the key to getting a job and managing your career. Networking is the key to keeping the job and networking also is the key to making a career transition when the job is no longer there.  The number and variety of people in your network play an important role in your ability to explore an expanded range of career options, shorten the duration of your job search and enrich and support the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in your career.

 The BIG picture

No one should overestimate their education, professional experience and knowledge of any sector of the economy.  This is because we live in an information age where technology has democratized information – anyone can access information through the internet easily and quickly and can use that information to innovate and invent new ways of doing business. On this point, I believe that many long-standing employees and seasoned professionals are still missing the mark by not building and maintaining a solid network of business contacts.

 The way we do things, the products we own and services we use are in a constant state of change and always under the threat of obsolescence and innovation. Change and innovation force organizations to adopt new directions at the drop of a hat. When this happens, some jobs get abolished and the description of others becomes expanded, requiring broader skill sets. Knowledge and training also adapt to change. The knowledge anyone gains from a university degree, educational programme of any kind or on-the-job experience, could also different in another 5 years or less!

For me, networking is a necessary and integral component of my everyday life.  Networking has opened me to sources of information on changing market trends, and yes, to emerging and new career opportunities.  I have come to realize that in today’s world, people must learn how to be self-motivated, how to recognize opportunity in changing circumstances and develop skills in marketing themselves.  We’re challenged in this economy to enhance our skills to make us flexible and ready to transfer from one career to another.  This, in my view is the BIG picture.

A few important lessons I’ve learned about networking that I focus on:

  • Inviting some of my connections to networking events helps to expand and enrich my network and the network of the people I invite to these events.  It’s all about introducing people to other people and making useful connections.
  • Preparing for each event makes it easier to connect with new people.  Getting information on the general profile of participants or of specific  participants beforehand helps me to identify potential topics for discussion, adjust my “elevator pitch” and set realistic expectations and goals for the number of people I expect to meet.
  • Being willing to offer help by way of referrals, new contacts and information resources tends to lead to stronger and meaningful connections.  When I focus the conversation on getting to know the other person and their interests usually leads to more productive discussions and interaction.
  • Following up by connecting on social media, such as following on Twitter or commenting on blog posts, connecting on LinkedIn and other networks are essential for successful networking.  Making notes on business cards on the person’s interests or expertise and sending an article or an invitation to an event that I believe the person would like help to support on-going contact. 

 A final word –

I’ve also learned not to be alarmed if some people don’t have time to talk or don’t respond to follow-up e-mails or calls.   I believe that this is because many people are very focused on discovering their own talents and abilities or are trying to find their footing in their career.  Then there are others who are self-aware, but are fully engaged and focused on being successful and so, they won’t have the time to network with people who they don’t perceive to be of valuable assistance or who can help them achieve their goals.   

 That said, I’ve learned that there’s always going to be a small but very important number of like-minded people who have much in common and want to network with each other.  In this way, unfilled needs are uncovered in areas of interest and in emerging trends.  Networking is one of the best ways for people to align their attention, time and talents with these unfilled needs and position themselves to take advantage of opportunities or create opportunities that lead to success.

 See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.


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