A lot is said about micromanagers and overmanaging people on the team. On the other end of the spectrum is the leader who undermanages their team. These types of leaders are discussed as much because they typically aren’t noticed. While the micromanager is always around and in someone’s business, the under-manager is nowhere to be found.
Under-managing can have as large of an impact on a team as over-managing but without obvious overtones of micromanaging. If you feel like you are too busy, don’t have enough time with your people, or don’t know your team well on a personal level you may be undermanaging your team.
Build authentic engagement
Check-ins that are surface level, may feel like you are staying on top of your people, but in reality, you aren’t engaging them in a way that adds value. be mindful of the questions you ask and move the conversation to a deeper level, both in their professional work and their personal life.
- Move from “How’s it going?” to “Tell me how your camping trip went last weekend.”
- Engage in value-added questions and conversations. Share personal things from your own life to build trust and transparency with the person.
- Ask “Tell me how the progress the team has made on the project (or task).” Instead of “How’s the project going?” The first asks for more details and involvement on your part while the second one may garner a simple, “It’s going fine”
- If the person responds back with a surface-level answer like “It’s going fine,” follow up with additional questions to dig further. Many under-managers will leave the conversation here and believe that they got a good update.
Just as in everyday life, it’s easy to go through the motions and just skim the surface. Slow down and maximize the time that you spend with others during personal check-ins and conversations.
Assess your week
Most people want to spend time with their leader unless the leader is bad. Do what you can to free up time to be with your people. Meeting are giant time sucks taking blocks of precious time out of your daily leadership. Assess which meetings that you truly need to be involved in. Could some be delegated to someone else as part of their development? Does the meeting need to happen as often as it does? Does it need to happen at all?
Schedule open teamwork and team-building time in order to protect it and ensure that happens on a consistent basis
Check your own personal engagement
Even good leaders can fall into under-managing when they themselves are no longer bought into the organization. The root of the issue is not that they don’t care for their team, it’s that they have an issue with someone or something else in the organization. Sometimes it’s a new leader, a big change, your own changing motivations, or even burnout.
If you feel like your engagement is pulling you away from leading others, take some time for yourself for thought and reflection. Seek advice from trusted advisors and mentors. Reconnect to your Calling and Why you do what you do. This can help motivate you to get back into your sweet spot of leadership or may be a wake-up call that it is time to do something else.
Another way that you check your self-awareness about your level of under-managing is by seeking feedback from your team, peers, and upline partners. You may discover that your level of engagement is not uniform around your circle of influence. You may be well engaged with your team, but not your peers or other partners. Maybe you are really close to your supervisor, but that level of relationship doesn’t extend down to your team.
Ask for the feedback, accept it well, and improve your leadership.
You likely care a great deal for your team. Give them the engagement that they deserve and provide them the support to thrive in their role.
Make a better tomorrow.