‘I told her, the office is now on teams – and so she needs to be really present on there to manage her team well.’
The above came from one of my usual weekly coaching sessions with a client. Whilst at first it might not seem particularly revelatory, there’s actually quite a lot to unpack.
The first revelation of this statement is the true acceptance of hybrid working. ‘The office is now on teams’ shows a leader who has truly embraced that they won’t ever be returning to BC (before Covid) business as usual.
The second interesting point here was the comment my client made about one of their managers. Worried that their traditional style of ‘managing by exception’ wouldn’t translate to the ‘office on teams’.
Managers who manage by exception traditionally give their team room and space to simply get on with the job. It’s a ‘hands-off’ style of leadership that encourages employees to bring only the biggest issues to management, allowing reports to dedicate their effort and attention to the most important tasks.
In a traditional face-to-face office environment, managing by exception can have its positives, It has the potential to allow managers to lead their team efficiently by delegating tasks, it sets clear priorities, and it can be motivating and encourage individuals to take on more responsibility.
But the reality is that whilst lots of employees might tell you they’d rather be left alone by their manager to get on with what they need to do, most – if not all – individuals perform better with regular check ins, encouragement and reassurance.
When your office is officially ‘on teams’ – managing by exception becomes more of a problem. The proximity of manager to team members feels even more vast. The organic environment in which managers might see or hear about their teams’ challenges disappears, and their management style becomes less empowering and more ‘not present’.
What can you do if you have a manager whose style is management by exception?
Give them support.
- Talk to your manager about how it might feel to be a member of their team who is left without check ins or encouragement. Allowing managers to have insight into the way individuals might feel about their management style will allow them to have their own realisation and help them become more empathetic.
- Ask managers to speak to their reports about the level of support they want and need. Are there certain parts of their role they would like more support with? Ask them to be more conscious of the individual needs of their reports.
- Suggest they check in just once a day for five or ten minutes with each of their team to make sure everyone is on track and happy.
A word of warning:
If you have a manager who has managed by exception for a long time, a sudden change in behaviour could (incorrectly) make their team wonder if the extra attention is because they are no longer trusted by their manager. Just like an inattentive other half suddenly delivering flowers each day, it’s worth making sure your manager communicates their change in behaviour to the team so they recognise the place it’s coming from.
I hope there’s something here for you to consider with your less hands-on managers as more offices are ‘on teams’ for the long haul.