How Micromanaging Poisons Productivity and Creates a Vicious Cycle of Despair

 

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Here’s the thing about bosses who micromanage. None of them think they’re actually doing it.

It’s easy to see how this happens. Managers, typically, were once experts at the work their subordinates are doing. That’s likely why they were promoted.

But this changes at the management level. Their jobs are more strategic, less hands on. Many managers aren’t up for the transition, so they sink back into what they’re familiar with — the gritty details of the work they used to do.

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Avoid Workplace Disagreements By Getting Things In Writing

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I was talking to a friend, who is an attorney, some years ago. We were discussing a small disagreement I was having with a coworker. The friend gave me some advice that I’ve practiced ever since.

“Have him send you an email. Make him write out exactly what his request is.”

Lawyers love this technique, he told me. And the benefits are two-fold.

For one, writing forces clear thinking. It will become obvious if someone doesn’t have a clear idea what they’re asking once they try to put it down on paper. And secondly, should some disagreement on the topic come up in the future, you will have a clear record of what was said and when. There will be no squabbling over who said what.

It’s an amazing tool that can make a big difference in your personal and professional life. The phrase “get it in writing” often conjures thoughts of a lengthy contact, formal documents with signatures and lawyers involved. It doesn’t have to be that way. “Get it in writing” can be something as simple as an e-mail.

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How Great Managers Know When They’re Doing Their Job

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There’s a piece of conventional wisdom in business: People aren’t raw materials. You can’t manage people like they’re widgets on a conveyor belt. People are fluid, emotional, volatile, unpredictable beings that need to be treated as such. You can’t manage people like an assembly line, right?

Maybe not.

The problem with that type of thinking isn’t that people actually are static and predictable. The problem is thinking that a manufacturing process is static and predictable. On a production line, unexpected problems and changes happen all the time. Raw materials arrive flawed, blizzards slow down deliveries, equipment breaks down, orders slow down and inventory piles up, some obscure agricultural disease in another continent wipes out a crop used in a chemical essential to the production process.

Unpredictable, fluid, ever-changing. Kind of like humans, right?

Great managers of people realize this. Great managers of people, in fact, embrace this and approach their job seeking the same consistency and measurable results as a production line operator. They know that their job is measured in the output of the people and departments they’re managing.

It’s the kind of thinking that helped propel Intel into the company it is today, with more than $55 billion in annual sales. It’s a central theme to Andrew S. Grove’s classic 1983 management book “High Output Management.”

The output of the manager is the output of their organization, Grove writes.

“In principle, every hour of your day should be spent increasing the output or the value of the output of the people whom you’re responsible for.”

In other words, a manager is doing their job when their department — when their people — are producing results. A manager at a candy cane factory can measure their personal productivity by the amount and quality of candy canes sent out the door. A software company manager can measure their achievements by the software shipped from the engineers.

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The Ultimate Guide to Awesome Meetings

meetings-ebookGenerally, meetings are pretty terrible. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We teamed up with Do to create this free eBook on how to make meetings better.

It’s a book that started with a question: Why are meetings so bad?

The problem is there are 11 million meetings every day in the U.S. and over half of those are unproductive. Oddly, even though it has become a fundamental part of our work day, most of us haven’t been taught or trained on how to run an awesome meeting.

So we created this comprehensive guide to end all of that—to arm everyone with the knowledge they need to run an awesome meeting.

Take control of meetings and download your free guide now.

Here’s a look at what you’ll be learning

  • How to ruthlessly kill inessential meetings
  • How to cancel those that shouldn’t happen
  • How to end on time
  • How one company got seven extra hours of productivity every week
Fill out my online form.

Over the past few years, we’ve become obsessed with improving meetings, and we’ve talked with hundreds of managers on how they run them and what works and what doesn’t. This eBook contains everything we’ve learned on how to improve your meetings and change the culture of meetings at your company.

Get your free eBook now

Why Bad Listening is One of the Worst Decisions Managers Can Make

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Powerful leaders are often mythologized as stubborn and bull-headed, and that ignoring the advice of others is a virtue.

But researchers at NYU’s Stern School of Business conducted a study on the influence of power in decision-making and they confirmed what many employees already know: people with more power listen less, take less advice, and are ultimately less accurate in final judgments.

The researchers gathered survey data from hundreds of working professionals, and they conducted controlled laboratory experiments where they primed participants to experience varying levels of power and then presented them with advice from others.

They found that greater power meant a reduced tendency to take advice from others. The reason was that the powerful had an elevated confidence in their snap judgments, and that meant that they didn’t listen to valuable advice of others that could’ve changed their mind.

That’s why to successful tech entrepreneurs Andy Grove and Jeff Bezos, bad listening is one of the worst decisions you can make as a manager—because it makes the quality of all of your manager decision making worse.

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How to Manage by Doing Nothing

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Mark Zuckerberg may be the poster child for entrepreneurial success as a young person, but he had to hire a CEO coach and learn how to lead.  Along his meteoric rise, he had to get an education on how to be a manager—simply being the founder and CEO of a hypergrowth company wasn’t enough.

No doubt, leadership is tough, even for the most naturally gifted business people. That’s because it feels unnatural.

You have to train yourself to overcome the innate responses that accompany regular social interaction and contend with the instinct to be liked while continually evaluating and providing feedback.  Plus, you also have to fight the inclination to always be producing.

Hard work likely got you this far, but once you take on the CEO reins, your job as a manager won’t resemble work as you know it. In fact, it may not resemble work at all, and that can be incredibly uncomfortable.

To Andy Grove, a management legend and former CEO of Intel, a manager’s fundamental job of information gathering can be one of the most unnatural and awkward. Yet dealing with that awkwardness, even inviting it, is also a fundamental part of being a good leader.

Grove tells us, that there’s an efficien —but underused because it’s uncomfortable—way to get and disseminate information: To be out in the open in your company, doing nothing.

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How to Go Beyond Trust Falls to Strengthen Your Team’s Camaraderie

Here’s an excerpt from our fresh-of-the-presses eBook, What You Don’t Know About Management: How to Take Back Your Work Day. If you like what you read, download the 50+ page eBook for free!

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For the amount of our lives that we spend working, you’d think it would be more common to spend time tending to our coworker relationships. Yet, the default is to treat the social aspects of work as a given instead of managing them in any significant way.

Team-building goes way beyond trust falls. Successful people recognize the importance of establishing and cultivating meaningful connections.

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Managers, Are You Sabotaging Motivation at Work?

3 Ingredients of Intrinsic Motivation: Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose

Given a choice between solving puzzles for free or for pay — which would you pick?

If you want to stay motivated and solve more puzzles, the surprising thing is that you should do them for free.

In the early 1970s, psychologist Edward Deci wanted to study how money affects motivation. In one experiment, he paid one group $1 (that’s about $6 today) for each puzzle solved within three sessions, while the control group received no payment. In the middle of each session was an eight-minute free period in which people could continue puzzling, read magazines, or otherwise spend the time how they wished.

It was the paid group who chose to spend less time working on puzzles in the free periods. The extrinsic monetary reward made them lose intrinsic motivation, where the reward is the activity itself.

Over forty years later, managers still rely on the old model of dangling external rewards like money and prestige to motivate their people — but in today’s era of knowledge work, this model is increasingly misguided. If you think your people are going to continue to put in their best efforts with monetary rewards, you’re sabotaging the most powerful sources of motivation.

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The Science Behind Why Jeff Bezos’s Two-Pizza Team Rule Works

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Once at an Amazon offsite, managers had the reasonable-sounding suggestion that employees should be increasing communication with each other. To their surprise, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos stood up and announced, “No, communication is terrible!”

This stance explains his famous two-pizza team rule, that teams shouldn’t be larger than what two pizzas can feed. More communication isn’t necessarily the solution to communication problems — it’s how it is carried out. Compare the interactions at a small dinner — or pizza — party with a larger gathering like a wedding. As group size grows, you simply can’t have as meaningful of a conversation with every person, which is why people start clumping off into smaller clusters to chat.

For Bezos, small teams make it easier to communicate more effectively rather than more, to stay decentralized and moving fast, and encourage high autonomy and innovation. Here’s the science behind why the two-pizza team rule works.

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Why You Should Hire People Who’ve Rebounded from Failure, Not Those Handcuffed by Success

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When it came time for Jeff Bezos to install a team to lead Amazon’s new subsidiary, the grocery delivery service AmazonFresh, he made a startling move. Instead of selecting experts from the supermarket or delivery industries or snapping up executives from his competitors, he chose people who had failed exactly where he wanted to succeed.

This maneuver would have never happened in the early days of Amazon. In the first few years of the company, Bezos was incredibly demanding about who he would hire. He only wanted the best — which were people who had “been successful in everything they had done.”

Bezos’s thinking on hiring did an about-face as he continued to build Amazon. To hire innovators, you must move beyond conventional ideas of success, and that’s why Bezos ultimately hired failures to run AmazonFresh.

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