Five occasions when hands-on management counts

Five occasions when hands-on management counts

Posted: Thu 15th Nov 2012

If you're growing your small enterprise and building a team around you - whether in the same space or 'virtually' - you're likely to be finding that management isn't always as straightforward as you'd like it to be. However, independent your staff, thee will always be occasions when you have to step in with a little hands-on guidance, as Sarah Ambler of HR software company Cezanne OnDemand explains.

The hands-on style of management has fallen out of favour in recent years with the emphasis shifting to empowering people and letting them get on with the job. But while micro-managing and looking over people's shoulders certainly isn't to be encouraged, there are occasions when a directive style of leadership is more likely to produce the right results. Here's our guide to the top five situations when it pays for managers to get more closely involved in the decisions and day-to-day work of their teams.

1. In a crisis situation

In times of crisis, someone needs to take control.  An authoritarian approach may not be your natural style, but if events conspire to plunge your team or department into chaos, it will help to create calm if people can see someone is taking a clear lead.  Once critical decisions have been made and everyone is clear about what they need to do, you can gradually return to a more 'hands off' approach.

2. At times of change

In a volatile economic climate, change has become a constant feature of people's working lives.  Employees caught up in a continuous round of re-organisations and new directions can easily become exhausted, dispirited and confused.  If managers want to drive change through quickly and effectively, they need to 'keep close' to their people, to make sure they are focusing their efforts in the right direction.  Employees who understand the bigger picture and can see how their individual efforts fit in are much more likely to buy into change and prioritise the right tasks.

3. When people need to develop fast

Too often, managers leave their people to 'get on with it' and assume they will find ways to develop the skills they need.  While some employees may well be capable of driving their own development, others will flounder without proper support.  If people are new to a role or are entering unfamiliar territory, a certain amount of 'hand-holding' can help bring them quickly up to speed.  If you need people to develop fast, it pays to take a close interest in their work and coach them through tasks until you are confident they are ready to fly solo.

4. When politics get in the way

New teams don't always gel in the way they should.   There may be personality clashes, for example, or people may be unhappy with the role they are being asked to play.  Sometimes, a previously high performing team turns into a dysfunctional one - maybe because people are pursuing different agendas, are feeling hopeless about their chances of meeting a seemingly impossible deadline or because they simply can't agree on the best way forward.  In this scenario, being a hands-on manager is positively helpful.  If you are keeping close to the team you have a better chance of developing an insight into what's really going on below the surface and can use the necessary leadership and reconciliation skills to try and turn things around.

5. When work is time critical

In the vast majority of cases, the best way to get results is to give people clear objectives and let them get on with the job in their own way.  There are, however, times when getting a project completed is so critical that you simply can't leave it to trust, however good your team.  This doesn't mean you have to be constantly on people's backs - but it does mean taking a close interest in key tasks, regularly checking progress against deadlines and asking for regular updates from your team.  Handled in the right way, this will come across as support and concern from their manager, rather than interference and a need to control.   If people feel you understand the pressures they are under, they are much more likely to keep going when the going gets tough.  And of course you could always roll your sleeves up and pitch in personally to reinforce the message that it's all hands on deck. Sarah Ambler is a marketing executive for Cezanne OnDemand, a HR software system for small and medium-sized businesses. She is a regular contributor to the their blog 'Managing People' and has also written about what what makes a good manager. Photo credit: Josep Ma Rosell

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