If you are wondering how a micro-manager can be absent based on the universally understood definition, I’d like you think about a well-known quote from Tommy Lasorda ( a former major league baseball manager), “I believe managing is like holding a dove in your hand. If you hold it too tightly you kill it, but if you hold it too loosely, you lose it.”
The micro-manager is the one with the tight grip who inevitably kills a dove or two along the way. More broadly, they de-motivate their employees with an intense level of direction, measurement and compliance. The absentee manager is polar opposite. They expect people to perform with little or no guidance. The anti-micro-manager is often unavailable to their employees; they can be overly trusting of people’s capabilities and lack the fortitude to confront employees who perform poorly. In the long run, employees fail, take the blame, and get fired.
Put the two together, and you have the absentee micro-manager: an employee’s worst nightmare. These managers, often full of personality and charisma, provide just enough direction to launch their team into action…then they disappear. That doesn’t always mean they leave the building, but they may as well since little time is spent providing support or coaching employees to higher levels of performance. When they reappear they revert to micro-manager mode. They undermine the original direction they established and often are perceived as being overly demanding and critical.
I know of a CEO who is an absentee micro-manager. He’s rarely available to employees, yet he insists that all decisions pass through him. He expects his employees to accomplish tasks while he’s gone, however, he second guesses and changes every decision they venture to make in his absence. As you can imagine, employees feel confused and cynical: they have much responsibility but little authority. The company struggles to accomplish even the smallest projects. Their bottom line also suffers: they are slow to market with new products, struggle to improve production efficiencies, and are booking sales well below their industry average.
High performing managers find a middle ground tailored to each employee and each team. Recognizing that most people are capable of more than they are currently doing; they need varying degrees of direction, structure and support to be successful. Managers need to assess an employee’s experience, capability, and potential and then strike the right balance along these dimensions: not so tight a grip as to kill the dove, but not so loose that the bird flies away.
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