Don’t breathe down their neck, but don’t leave the room either!

53538971 - difficult boss

Your team members do not like to be looked over the shoulder, nor do they like to be told what to do and if you need to personally order each action and monitor each detail of what you ask your team to perform, you will end up exhausted supervising a team of robots, doing nothing without a clear instruction to do something.

This is known as micro-management. And all management coaches, advisers will tell you it´s bad. As I just did from my own experience. Even a world war legend, general George S. Patton said Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”

Pretty hard to disregard the words of such a great and proven leader.

Does that mean that a manager should have a very loose control over the concrete tasks performed in his team? Because on the other side General Patton was fierce about discipline with his troops and discipline is quite unilateral and brutal. Application of rules and regulations leaves no space for interpretation. So would that be antinomic?

Many young managers find themselves sometimes in situations where the team might not know how to do things, or a team that is not homogeneous in its commitment to company results. Knowledge and discipline are always part of the equation.

Never forget that you are dealing sometimes with people much more different than you, and that includes them having less experience or a different experience.

You cannot fully ignore the “how to do”.

Concretize your work values

Some people simply need to see concretely what you mean. For example, when you want someone from the team to send an e-mail to a customer, you may be surprised to see what that team member sees as a polite and informative e-mail. Ask to see it before it is sent, correct and explain. At one point you will know that the team member will be able to do it the way you see fit.

Show the way

Some people need a little navigation on the road. They need the how, and advice, and without leaning on their shoulder and controlling, they maybe will not find the way, or will find it much later.

Of course, pride and fear of criticism will make them very unhappy with what you are doing. Stand firm.

Help people understand

Some people know what they have to do, but having never been confronted with the reason why respecting some company protocols is so important, they will be reluctant to do it. Here as well, explain, provide examples. Giving the bigger picture is the key of a team that will function professionally in the near future because they understand the scope of what they are doing and how they are doing it.

Accept suggestions, make clear you are cooperating together with the team member

Accept and welcome suggestions that the team member makes. Show that the work being done together is a cooperation. Regularly ask what the team member thinks, or if the team member understands why you would like the work to be done this way.

Then take a step back

Of course comes a time when you need to let go and take the small wheels off the bicycle. That time may be different between team members, but you will need to pull out gradually and empower on the mission with much less emphasis on the “how”.

Mainly because the people need to see you trust them, and that they are left to work on solutions themselves in their personal way. As a great war general said:”let them surprise you with their results”.

Reward good thinking and show your availability in case of need. Don’t say “howto do it”, but give a clue on what you think is important.


Discuss further with me? Agree, disagree? React!








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Filed under leadership, management, sales management, sales manager

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