In a recent meeting with a client, the subject of micromanaging employees’ work came up. Some tasks weren't getting done fast enough, so the client asked me if I thought he wasn’t doing enough to manage his employees and if it’s ever appropriate to micromanage.

As the ongoing conversation about the failures of managers to effectively lead employees often suggests, executives often micromanage their employees rather than lead them. However, in truth, there is a fine line between being a manager and being a micromanager. There is a time for managers to lead as well as a time for leaders to manage.

While there are executives who do in fact micromanage every move their employees make, I don’t believe that every manager who is hands-on is a micromanager. And I also can tell you that not every leader who is hands-off is an effective manager.

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So how do you know where you fall? There needs to be a proper balance. However, your job is complex and figuring out when you should be hands on and manage the results of your team members can at times be challenging to recognize. Here are a few cases where being more hands-on might benefit you as a manager and a leader, in addition to helping you propel your team members toward the finish line.

When time is of the essence. When you assign a time-sensitive deliverable, don’t assume that your employees understand the depth of importance or the urgency of the matter. That’s up to you to clearly convey and then ultimately manage. And it’s also your job to set measurable goals with specific timelines attached. Otherwise, you have no right to complain when employees fall short of getting the job done to your satisfaction. Make sure your team understands what’s at stake, what’s expected and the timeline in which they must deliver. If you have assigned a team leader to the group, perhaps you can place some of the onus on her and let her be responsible for understanding the timeline, what’s at stake and what’s expected. Just don’t lose sight of the fact that you are ultimately the responsible party, so act like it and check in with your team leaders.

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When implementing a new process. One of the biggest failures of managers is implementing a new procedure or process by telling employees what to do and then walking away from it, expecting everyone to jump on board and go with it. People don’t like change, especially when they don’t see the point or when they feel the change threatens their ability to get their job done. Consider getting in the trenches with employees when you are changing their workflow or making significant changes to any process or procedure. This will give you a chance to see how these changes impact their ability to be productive and will allow you to make necessary adjustments before the changes have a negative impact on employee morale or output.

When the expected results on a project are very specific. Just because you say what you expect doesn’t mean employees heard it in the way you meant it. Everyone has a different way of hearing and processing information and there’s also a chance that the way you explained it may not have been as clear as you thought. If there’s little wiggle room on what needs to be delivered, then work with employees along the way to make sure the work is being done according to the specs and expectation. You don’t have to pound a gavel to manage this process. Instead, try rallying the team around delivering interim results. Try offering public praise, “thank you's” and even small rewards for a job well done.

The moment you realize things aren’t going well. There’s nothing worse than a manager assigning a task or project and then when she realizes things are not going according to her plan, she sits around complaining about it and the employees involved, rather than addressing the issues immediately. You are the boss. You are the one who has to answer to the c-suite, the board and the client. If things aren’t going well, do something about it. Speak with those involved, assess where they need help, reiterate what you expect and make sure they are clear about it. If they’re not or if they still do not deliver what you expect, then perhaps it’s time for you to roll up your sleeves and show them the way.  

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