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How to Help (Without Micromanaging)

https://hbr.org/2021/01/how-to-help-without-micromanaging

hbr.org

How to Help (Without Micromanaging)
New research points to three strategies.

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Managing Without Micromanaging

Managing Without Micromanaging
  • Micromanagement has a bad reputation, and team members want to work autonomously, not being watched all the time and told what to do.
  • Managers, however, cannot be held guilty in most cases, as team members doing complex work often need extensive help, and are now farther away in their homes, making it even more difficult to oversee.
  • Extensive research has shown that ‘pervasive helping’ leads to better performance, as compared to leaving the employee alone.

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George S. Patton

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."

George S. Patton

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The Timing Of A Help Offer

Successful managers don’t preempt every obstacle a team member encounters but watch and listen, looking for the right time to pitch in. If someone is already stuck in the challenge, first-hand, they are engaged enough to take the advice in a positive manner.

Lending the hand at the right time makes the employee use the instructions in a better way, as if the same thing was said in the beginning, it would not have registered with them at all.

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Offering Help: Clarify Your Intentions

  • The power dynamics of being a manager and the multiple personalities that make up a boss can make the subordinates doubt the fact that they can get any effective help.
  • A boss stepping in is perceived as a sign of failure.
  • Employees can become defensive, unreceptive or the provided assistance and demoralized with the involvement of a boss.
  • The Manager needs to clarify their intentions and voice out the fact that they are there as an advisor and not an evaluator.

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Alignment Of Involvement To Need

  • If the project is complex, cognitively demanding and highly creative, one has to engage in a deep manner in the short term, but non-engagement(path clearing) in the long term.
  • The manager has to step in when an employee has come upon an obstacle which cannot be taken care of by some feedback or light input and may need to closely align with the team for days.
  • If the other two key strategies are followed by managers, they won’t have a problem doing a timely and intensive intervention when the need is there.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Capable People Unwilling To Lead

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Leadership: Three Kinds of Risk

  1. Interpersonal Risk: When people are reluctant to lead due to spoiling a friendship or hurting a fellow workers feelings.
  2. Image Risk: People don’t want to come across as a ‘Mr Know It All’ or someone aggressive in front of all the team members.
  3. Risk Of Getting Blamed: Being a leader means that if the team fails, the person in charge takes all the blame. This loss aversion makes many shun a leadership opportunity.

Mitigating Risk: Proactive Steps For Managers

  1. Be extra supportive of the fragile, risk-sensitive colleagues. Seek their input and publicly praise them for their team efforts.
  2. Relationship conflicts, differences of opinions, values or personality issues and the perception that comes with it needs to be managed before they escalate.
  3. Make the would-be leaders take up small, low-stakes opportunities and let them take baby steps towards higher-visibility roles once they gain confidence and build a reputation.

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Behaviors of highly engaged employees

Behaviors of highly engaged employees
  1. They do not use their problems as an excuse from mistakes. They don't let the problem affect their ability to perform.
  2. They know how to take accountability for their actions.

The management and highly-engaged employees

Managers create the conditions that promote the behaviors of engaged employees with the relationships they establish.

  • The bosses who individualize create a space for their employees to seek out their strengths and only ask when advice is needed.
  • The bosses who generalize will often require constant managerial intervention because they don't foster engagement-creating behavior.

Engagement-oriented questions

Asking engagement oriented questions allows the employee to be able to think for themselves and to examine situations, analyze their own performance and generate great ideas or solutions.

This method is modeled from the Socratic Method that aids in stimulating mindful observation and critical thinking.

For example: "This report has been on your desk for a while now. Are you having trouble getting the information you need to complete it? Do you need help?"

What Not To Do When Asking For Help

What Not To Do When Asking For Help
  • Instruct people.
  • Tell or imply that they should help our debt they don’t have a choice about it.
  • Using unnecessary prefaces makes people feel trapped.
  • Profusely apologi...

Reinforce A Request For Help

  • In-group: Assuring that you’re on the helper’s team and the team’s importance taps into our need to belong to and perpetuate supportive social circles. 
  • Positive identity: Creating or enhancing their recognition that they are uniquely placed to provide assistance and that they aren’t just “people who can help” but routinely helpful people. 
  • Effectiveness: People want to know the impact of the aid they will give. Knowing one’s actions have an effect is a fundamental human motivation. 

Research Results On Helpfulness

  • Studies indicate that people are willing to help more often than we expect.
  • Studies suggest that we underestimate how much effort those who do agree to help will put in.
  • Those who help others get to feel better with themselves than those who don’t.