by Victor Lipman, Harvard Business Review, 11/8/18.
Micromanagement gets most of the attention, but under-management may be just as big a problem.
This is the term I’ve given to a constellation of behaviors that I’ve seen occurring together often during my 24 years in management: weak performance management, a tendency to avoid conflicts with employees, and generally lackluster accountability. As the name suggests, there’s just not quite enough management being done—and results often suffer as a result. But under-management can often fly under the radar because the managers who have these tendencies aren’t necessarily incompetent; on the contrary, they often know their business well, are good collaborators, and are well-liked.
…Don’t be a conflict-avoider. Let’s start with the handling of conflict. Early in my management career I was fortunate to have a mentor who took me aside and told me straight-out that if I was going to succeed in management, I needed to become more effective in my handling of conflict. I still remember his exact words. He praised my abilities (my knowledge of our business and my work ethic), but added, “Frankly, I don’t know if you want to handle conflict. I don’t know if you have the stomach for it.” I realized that if I was going to be successful in management, this was a problem area and I was going to have to work on it. So I did — diligently. I became highly conscious of conflict and not ducking it. Truth be told I still don’t like dealing with conflict (most people don’t), but I recognized it was a vital part of the management role and over time I became more comfortable with it and competent at it.
View goal-setting as mission-critical. If you’re not delivering the results you need to, which is the risk at the heart of under-management, first make sure the goals your employees need to achieve are well-conceived and clear. Most managers don’t spend nearly enough time on goal setting; too often we approach it as a nettlesome bureaucratic exercise (why is Human Resources torturing me this way, making me fill out these endless forms?). But thoughtful goals that are agreed to by employees can be a manager’s best friend because you can manage to them: they become a roadmap to guide your work with your team all year…