Embrace your workers, do not avoid them.
As you probably know, I am not an advocate of micromanagement, a Theory X form of management featuring autocratic rule. I tend to subscribe to Theory Y where you “manage from the bottom up,” meaning a manager should train and empower his/her people to perform project tasks, and get out of their way. However, the manager should run interference for his people to overcome problem areas, real or potential. From the sound of this scenario, the manager spends little time with their people. Not quite. It is true they will manage more and supervise less, but they should always be cognizant of the needs of their people.
I knew a Chief Information Officer (CIO) for a Fortune 500 conglomerate who spent the bulk of his time away from the office, attending a multitude of meetings, either with the executive board, visiting the company’s many offices, or attending industry conferences where he often gave speeches. Although he had a mobile phone, the best way to contact him was either by e-mail or through his secretary who tracked his whereabouts.
His subordinate managers rarely knew where he was, and desperately wanted more face time to address some of the problems arising in the organization. Without the guidance of the CIO, they were forced to second guess how to best solve problems, usually wrong. This forced the managers to form an alliance to mutually solve problems, an unintended benefit resulting from the CIO’s absence. Aside from this, the managers and his workers felt abandoned and became apathetic.
One of the objectives of any manager is to “do yourself out of a job,” meaning to train your people to be able to take over the organization in the event the head manager is disabled or unavailable. If the department can run smoothly without him, he has done his job. Actually, this approach is derived from the military where it has long been the practice to prepare subordinates for advancement in times of crisis. However, to make this work, the subordinates must be properly trained. Unfortunately, many managers overlook this little detail and, consequently, the subordinates flounder.
Aside from this, the manager’s main attention should be focused on their people. Knowing corporate direction and planning is one thing, but it is imperative managers understand the problems and needs of their people. This means attending meetings, one-on-ones, keeping tabs on the pulse of their departments, status reports, brainstorming sessions, etc. As the captain of his ship, the manager should understand the direction of his department and make sure the crew has all the tools and instruction necessary to competently sail the ship.
In the example of the CIO mentioned earlier, most of the workers had no clue as to what the manager was thinking or what was expected of them. Consequently, they worked independently, certainly not in a concerted manner. In other words, the crew was not rowing on the same oar.
Just a little time socializing with your workers, remembering their names and important dates, such as birthdays and anniversaries, can work wonders in terms of improving morale. Sorry, but tweets, e-mails, and text messages will not suffice. Find the time to meet with your people, even if its nothing more than walking the trenches and checking progress first hand. As the leader of your area, it sends a powerful message that you care. Bottom-line, make yourself more accessible to your people. Hiding behind a wall will not enhance productivity.
Keep the Faith!