Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Working with a Micro-Manager

Hands up if you have worked with a Micro-Manager. You know, one of those folks who gets so involved in the detail of how we do the job that they might as well do the job themselves.

They wear themselves out questioning us closely on exactly how we are going to do each job and second-guess us at every turn... and by so doing either make us feel completely inadequate or steaming mad.

The delightful opposite is the macro-manager. This is the person who tells you the big picture; the why of the outcomes they need, then they leave us to get on with it. We are very, very welcome to contact them if we have questions, are uncertain about choices or if the world throws up a curve ball; but it is our job, and they trust us to carry it out.

As a lecturer I have two macro-managers. It is wonderful! As long as I acheive the desired outcomes, they trust me to manage the process. Actually, I have nearly always had macro-managers... the few times I have worked with micro-managers, I have moved on very quickly. I guess like all things though, it is a continuum.

From my informal observation, I think the average Kiwi likes 90% macro, 10% micro. In thinking about it, I prefer to lead 90ma/10mi, but prefer to follow at nearly 100ma!

People's preferences when leading depends on how much trust the follower generates. When I don't trust someone to be do a job, my ratio would drop down 75/25. However, there are some managers who start at 60/40 and it just goes downhill from there.

It is easy to think that people are the same the world over, but Geert Hofstede did some great work with IBM staff in the 1970s, questioning, collating and summarising data on the different cultural dimensions displayed by different populations (though not specifically on how we lead or follow). He found that our leadership style preferences changed depending on which culture we were from. Some cultures were very individualistic, others collective; some more masculine dominated, some more feminine; some could tolerate a greater power distance, some preferred a more fair culture; some liked more certainty, some could cope with more ambiguity. Together, these measurements added up to each nation's unique take on "how we do things around here". You can read more about Hofstede at http://vtaras.com/files/JAP_Taras_Kirkman_Steel.pdf

New Zealand is a culture that, I feel, doesn't cope well with micro-managing. The US is probably less tolerant than we are, as would Australia be. Germany and Japan would be more tolerant.

I find it really interesting to spot the differences so we can better understand those around us; even with something so insignificant as a micro-manager.

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