Learning to manage people without them knowing may sound Machiavellian. However, the intention behind this is simply to start managing people in a way that allows them to effectively manage themselves. It can take time and effort to get to a stage where your team is able to be autonomous where necessary, own their decisions and be creative about problem solving but it is possible to get there. These are some of the key steps involved.
Be clear about when you need to be part of the process
Most managers want to steer clear of a micro-managing approach and this rarely suits teams either. However, it’s difficult to achieve this if there are no clear guidelines on what needs your input and when an issue or decision is something that staff should be handling on their own. The first simple step to managing people effectively is setting out unambiguously when you should be involved before the team makes a move. Once this is in place it should mean that you’re not constantly being asked for input but also provide reassurance to everyone that it’s clear when you need to be consulted.
Don’t deviate from the path you’ve designed
Particularly if you’ve been overly involved in every single decision for some time it might be difficult for your team to give up asking for your input on everything. You might still need to make contributions in unprecedented situations or help junior – or new – staff but on the whole you should stick to the new path that you’ve designed and what you’ve put in place about when you need to be involved and when the team needs to make their own decisions. One simple tactic to deal with staff who are repeatedly returning to ask for your input on every single thing is to turn the tables on them. Next time they come to you with a question try asking them “what do you think?” It means that they may come up with their own solution and will get them into the habit of starting to tap their own internal resources first.
Stay in touch
When management style changes there is always a danger that the team may feel like they are being ignored or abandoned. To avoid this, schedule in regular meetings – face to face or via video chat – so that there is the opportunity for them to ask questions and talk things through. This approach may also encourage them to save questions for the weekly chat rather than constantly bombarding you with them.
Give your team the opportunity to shine
Instead of solving problems on behalf of your team, when an issue arises give them a chance to do it themselves. For example, if there is a process that currently requires your input to complete but could actually be effectively done without you could a template be designed to facilitate this? Instead of designing this yourself put the problem to the team and let them come up with a solution – it’s likely that they will be more creative and come up with something much more appropriate as it will be designed by those who use it most.
There is an art to managing people without them knowing and it starts with clear communication and a willingness to trust.
Find out more by booking onto our Managing People on Projects training course…