I was always pretty relaxed when it came to management oversight and follow up – too relaxed in the beginning and that was a tough learning curve for me. My theory was that if you asked people to do something they will just do it, and I assumed that if they had been on their job for a while they had the skills and knowledge to do it right. Well, I WAS WRONG!
A Lesson in Oversight
When I started out as a manager I only had a few employees reporting to me, so I had a good sense of what was going on in the workplace. As I advanced into larger offices with more direct reports I placed a great deal of trust in the people who worked for me. Its great to trust your employees, but I learned that you shouldn’t just rely on assumptions.
This is me: If I am asked to do something it gets done, on time, without follow up, and done to the best of my capabilities. When I am unsure how to do something, I research or asked for help.
I incorrectly assumed that everyone else worked just like me. However, as a manager you are accountable for everything and your boss doesn’t care if Sally dropped the ball or if Ted doesn’t do things according to the procedures. It’s your job to make sure it all gets done, and gets done correctly.
I remember the first time our office got audited and there was a major irregularity found because of reports not being completed correctly. It was my Assistant Manager’s job to do this, so of course I was annoyed with her for not doing her job and now we had failed our audit. So much for my bonus that year. She should know better right?
Some Good Advice from a Mentor
My boss at the time gave me some darn good advice, he said you need to Inspect what you Expect (he also said a few less kind things to me that I fully deserved). When I said that I wanted to trust my employees to do their jobs, he asked how I would know which employees I should trust and whether I should always trust what they are doing is right. The goal is to be able to trust all of your employees, but if you are just assuming they know what they need to do and how they need to do it, are you being an effective leader?
Inspect what you Expect was something that stuck with me. It’s not Micromanaging, it’s communication and follow up. Finding a balance between lack of management oversight and micromanaging. It’s being accountable and ensuring employees know 3 things. What you expect, why, and when you expect it done by.
It starts by being really clear on your expectations and you need to pick your priorities. There’s no need to follow up on every task that every employee does.
An Example of Inspect what you Expect
Email number 1
Good morning team. Please see the attachment for instructions to complete project X. I need this done as soon as possible. Thanks.
Email number 2
Good morning team. Please see the attachment for instructions to complete project X. My deadline to submit this is Nov. 1st so I require your input by end of day Oct. 28th latest. Save the file and fill in the sections highlighted, then submit your file back to me. I’m going to be out of the office on Oct 26th & 27th so please review it within the next 2 days in case you have any questions. Thanks.
If you are the employee, which email gives a clear picture of what your manager needs? Does it make you feel accountable? Do you have a clear deadline?
As the manager, the second email builds in not only the expectation but also the follow up. You know to follow up if you don’t receive anything by the 28th from an employee. If the project is important enough that you need to check it over, having everything submitted to you allows you to do that. And you have invited them to ask questions if needed.
What about inspecting the day to day stuff that’s important? Build in spot checks to your daily or weekly routine. In the case of my failed audit, I wasn’t reviewing any of my assistant manager’s work. She thought she was completing the reports correctly and no one had told her differently. My lack of follow up certainly hadn’t helped her with this. Follow up is even more important when you’re new to a role and you don’t really know how your employees work.
To Sum it Up
Inspect what you Expect is a balance. If you never follow up you’ll have no control over what’s going on around you. Too much follow up can feel like a lack of trust. So prioritize what needs follow up, be clear in your communication, and spot check the routine things. You’ll feel in control without being controlling.
Do you have tips on how to follow-up without micromanaging? I’d love to hear them. And don’t forget to share the post if you found it helpful. Thanks!