Adrian over at Slow Leadership offers a great post called, Benign Neglect. In it, he writes about how his father’s garden thrived with a little bit of neglect and ties this to leadership:
"Good leaders and managers do the same as my father. They practice benign neglect. It´s the idiots that cause the problems, always fussing around their staff, probing and peering and generally interfering with them doing their jobs. They´re like children who plant a few seeds and want to dig them up the next day to see if they´re growing. You can forgive children, but adults should know better."
His whole post is great and I recommend you read it. In the coaching I do, this is a common leadership derailing factor and it causes grief all around. Let me explain:
Myth: Most people think micromanagers micromanage because they don’t trust their employees. For some this is the case, but the most common root cause I have seen is a lack of self-confidence.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is true. If you have a boss looking over your shoulder or asking you to track your every move, it is likely that he or she suffers from some feelings if inadequacy or fear.
What these leaders don’t understand is that this kind of management style drives people insane and the great people will eventually leave (because life is too short!). This becomes a vicious cycle, because when great people leave, it leads to more pressure and fear, making the manager’s tendency to micromanage stronger.
I call this a derailing factor because it can cause one to lose their job, get passed over for a promotion, or get demoted.
These leaders are often control freaks, too. Another farce with it’s roots in a lack of self-confidence. I must admit, I have learned this one the HARD way myself. And as a recovering control freak, I can say with great authority and assurance that, as leaders, we don’t and can’t control anyone. Leaders control processes and things, but people cannot be controlled. And they should not be controlled, because then we turn them into machines (like the feeding machine in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times).
What demands are you placing on your people? What idiotic administrative hoops are you asking them to jump through so that you can "stay on top of" what’s going on? I once had a manager who asked for very detailed weekly activity reports. I didn’t do them and went about my day working on things that were actually important. I kept my manager informed enough that he knew I was focused and doing the right things that he did not bug me for the reports. What a waste of time!!!
Here’s the thing. If you ask people to detail every email and phone call, please realize that what you are going to get back is garbage information put together just to keep you away. In fact, you are more likely to get bogus info.
want need your people to be trying to help you and the department be successful. You can’t even come close to this by pissing them off and getting into their garden. If they are wrong for the role, get rid of them. Otherwise let them do their jobs and give them space, support, and trust.
There is good news! You can change. And if you do, you will come to know a whole new world and level of success. The positive results can be fairly immediate, too. But you will need to be open and coachable. I fought shedding my control freakdom for years and I regret that (sure, I have little flair ups now and then, but I can see them for what they are). You might want to ask a trusted friend or coach for help – someone who can be brutally honest with you.
If you are afflicted with anything like this, why not set a New Year’s resolution to turn a new page in your management practice?