Are you managing your team? Or are you managing your team?

If you’re a people leader, responsible for managing a group of employees (i.e., you’re the boss), what do you do when you start having to really manage someone? When you regularly check in on the progress of their work, despite having previously agreed on a mutual timeline and objective, to avoid an uncommunicated delay or miss. When you need to double, and triple check their work for obvious errors. When you need to prescribe exactly what they need to do, for them to complete their work. When you’re investing considerable mental energy worrying about them dropping the ball. When you have a team of 5 and you spend 80% of your time focused on and supporting one individual.  

Once you get to the point where managing someone really means managing someone, as I’ve described above, you have a problem. The time and mental energy you spend managing them, is time you should be allocating to higher priority and more important tasks. As a manager, you must get leverage out of your team, to create capacity for you to focus on what matters most, which the team can’t be expected to because they are absorbed in the day-to-day.

If you’re in the unenviable position of managing someone, ask yourself a few questions: (a) have I unintentionally enabled or encouraged this type of behavior? (b) have I been clear enough with my expectations? And (c) have I provided enough training or support, such that they should know how to complete their work with limited intervention?

If you know, deep down, that the answer to all these questions is “yes”, then there really is only one conclusion: you either need to transfer this person to a different role where they can be more successful, or you need to fire them. It’s a harsh conclusion, but rarely have I seen someone come back from having to be managed in that way. Great employees require clear expectations, empowerment, and support. They do not need to be managed.