Microleadership: 3 Tips to Build Stronger Employee Relationships

In today’s corporate hallways, there seems to be endless discussion around the alarming downtrends in employee loyalty. But the ironic truth is that in many cases, the same managers grasping to keep their employees committed may unknowingly be the very catalysts driving them out.

According to a recent Gallup survey, approximately half of all employees have left a job “to get away from a manager.” But why?  Where are managers going so consistently wrong that 50% of the work force has, at one time, felt it necessary to walk out the door?

One common thread Gallup highlights is that “only 18 percent of managers at U.S. jobs [have] ‘high talent’ for leadership skills, including the ability to encourage accountability in the workplace, motivate workers and build relationships with them.” And when managers are lacking these critical leadership skills, their employee relationships often become more directive and less developmental.

The term “micromanager” has been around for years, describing the type of directive managers who suffocate their employees to ensure projects are completed their way, rather than allowing room for expression, development, and a sense of personal completion.

Merriam-Webster defines micromanagement as the attempt “to control or manage all the small parts of something in a way that is usually not wanted or that causes problems.” For the purpose of this white paper, we’ll stay focused on the problem of employee retention.

But what happens if we take the word “micromanagement”, and replace management with leadership? The new term that emerges—microleadership—would then be defined as the power or ability to lead others in a way that positively affects even the small parts of what they do.

Microleadership would still require the active involvement of a superior, but suddenly, the primary action changes from controlling to leading, and the focus shifts from projects to people. With employees at the heart of this newly-defined management style, it seems only logical that the managers who employ it would be better poised to develop stronger, more mutually-respectful relationships—perhaps the first step toward earning back some of that elusive employee loyalty.

To better understand whether a more developmental-focused management style may be right for you and your organization, below are three tips to successful microleadership:

Check In, Not Up.

It’s amazing how often managers are surprised when their employees leave, and if anything, it goes to show there is still a lack of meaningful communication in many employer-employee relationships. In fact, when social media-based recruitment agency Staffbay.com surveyed over 13,000 job seekers, a whopping 52.6 percent said they wanted to leave their current role because “they didn’t trust their boss.”

With limited time and the pressure of impending deadlines, it’s easy to focus your communication efforts more on the status of your projects than the needs of your people. However, to demonstrate to your employees that their development is a priority, it’s critical that you set aside time to check in on how they are feeling, whether they are comfortable with and fulfilled by their current roles, and how you can help to better position them for long-term success.

Focus on Why, Not How.

While micromanagers regularly provide employees with detailed directions on how to do their work, microleaders prefer to reinforce why they need to do it. To illustrate the positive effect of this seemingly subtle difference, I’d like to share a story.

Not long ago, I visited a manufacturing plant that produced thread. This thread just so happened to be used to make Kevlar vests worn by military and police forces as a life-saving device from bullets, shrapnel and other dangerous objects. During my visit, I asked one of the hourly line employees what his job is. His response was that he saves lives. I was a bit perplexed as I stood watching thread spewing from his machine at hundreds of feet per minute, until he went on to explain that if he does not perform his job at a level of utmost quality, even one resulting imperfection could put the individual who might one day wear this product in harms way.

Impressively, the leadership at this company had been able to clearly communicate their overarching mission in such a way that it permeated all levels of the organization. Of course, it’s understood that not all job functions have the potential to save lives. However, if you can reinforce the purpose behind what your employees do, you will instill a sense of pride and inspire them to perform with excellence, not just because you care, but because they do as well.

Don’t just Say it. Show it.

Micromanagers who provide endless direction from the sidelines often leave employees questioning whether their bosses even have the ability to perform key job functions themselves. Conversely, successful microleaders communicate with their employees just as much through their actions as their words. They demonstrate their passion and abilities in the workplace, establishing team standards and inspiring those around them to perform to the same high level.

Although you many have the knowledge base required to hand-hold employees through their projects, it’s a powerful choice to instead empower team members to make their own decisions, offering them the freedom to exercise creativity and rely on their own best judgment. The result? Employees working for micromanagers walk away with the sole understanding of how to do their jobs, but employees of microleaders also walk away with an understanding of how to become leaders themselves.

So what does this all mean?

 Ongoing communication is a must to build healthy, long-lasting employee relationships, but to achieve the desired response, you must start with the right intention. Vlatka Hlupic, management consultant and author of The Management Shift said it this way: “It’s about developing trust within your team and tolerating mistakes as people will not be innovative if they’re not allowed to experiment. It’s also about focusing on the higher purpose of organization and aligning that with the individual purpose of employees.”

At the end of the day, each manager-employee relationship is unique, and there’s certainly no one-size-fits-all style of management. However, if you’re feeling the pain from high turnover, or are still struggling to bring clarity to your company’s mission and vision, microleadership can be a great strategy for showing employees you’re committed while you work toward a thorough understanding of where your organization is headed, and what role each individual will play in getting you there. download pdf

Are there short or long-term benefits your organization could gain by adopting a microleadership style of management? If you need help getting started, give us a call today at #708-738-5040, or visit our websites at RRGExec.com and SearchWorksllc.com