Dale Carnegie had said, “Don’t be afraid of giving your best to the seemingly small jobs. Every time you conquer one, it makes you much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.” This belief encourages managers to pay attention to the small details, but the mistake many do is to monitor it themselves and control the outcomes hands-on. As a result, they end up as micromanagers, stifle innovation, curtail freedom, dwarf the growth of their team members and limit the impact their team could potentially deliver. Hence, we must be macro-managers balancing finely between the big picture and the small details.
What is the problem with small details?
Someone has said beautifully, “It’s always the small pieces that make the big picture.” Like a bucket gets filled with drops of water or a book gets ready with individual chapters, a large outcome or victory is achieved when we know each of the steps towards the destination and we do what is necessary to climb the ladder step by step. There is no doubt that every step towards the goal is clearly articulated by the manager and understood by the team; the team must prepare well before climbing a step and finally, all of them including the manager have to climb the step. Along the process of climbing the steps of the ladder, the manager has to keep an eye on various parameters and make course corrections so that the goal is achieved. Hence, small details are important.
Sometimes, managers are obsessed with the measurement and become anxious to know the progress now and then. Their behaviours with their team members portray their lack of trust in the abilities or the intent of individuals or the team at large. They come across as people either lacking in confidence or insecure. None of these is helpful for the team to achieve results over a long period and for the organisation to remain a reliable force to deliver value consistently.
How can a manager keep the focus on small details without micromanaging the team?
Every adult human being values freedom to operate and expects the stakeholders to trust his capabilities and intent continuously. Nobody likes to be watched over the shoulders; hence, frequent reviews and calls for reports are not liked. Anxious managers make their teams demotivated and disengaged; their teams lose sight of the long-term goals and the organisation’s purpose.
As opposed to micromanagement, leaders have to provide autonomy to their team members and trust them for having selected them in their team for the capabilities that each one of them possesses. They have to give them clarity about the big picture and long-term goals; involve them in crafting the short-term priorities and strategies. This big picture focus is particularly important for the young people who form a significant part of our workforce. The socio-cultural environment in which our young people have grown up has primed them to seek clarity of purpose in whatever they pursue; they are passionate about the causes they commit to and seek independence to express their views and perspectives. For teams to succeed and organisations to consistently win, the managers have to facilitate a conducive environment.
Hence, we have to trust the intent and capabilities of our team members, involve them in creating the road to success and encourage them to innovate while following the systems and processes defined in the company.
Be curious and create a culture of clarity and accountability
No leader can be successful if he or she uses the team as a mere assemblage of instruments or tools. Human beings look for social connections and recognition. One of the most important priorities for the manager is to establish a personal connection and maintain the same by staying genuinely curious about the team members and their contexts.
Secondly, to run any business process, managers have to define clear indicators for measurement of performance, define the frequency of measurements, and enable and empower people to self-monitor and course-correct. They have to hold people accountable for the performance goals and the behaviours required for success. There is no need for micro-managing!