From the Desk of the Director

Author: Kim Patton

Hello!  My name is Kim and I’m a control freak!  You can ask any member of my family or close friends and they would agree.  I like to make sure all the little details for every task are done to my specifications (perfectionism, in other words).  And if the people working with me on a task are not performing to my specifications, I immediately step in.  Can you say micro-manager? 

My husband and I recently saw the movie “Horrible Bosses.”  Kevin Spacey plays uber-horrible boss Dave Harken – a “slave-driving psycho” who could be the poster child for micro-management.  As the CEO of the company, he leads his employees to believe that one of them will become the next vice president of sales.  Then during a staff meeting, Harken announces that the new VP will be… insert drum role here… himself.  Harken will become CEO and VP of Sales.  He decides to knock down the wall between the two offices to create a giant luxurious suite for himself.  Wow!  Can you say ego?

Most of us are nothing like Dave Harken, but many of us may have a tendency to micro-manage.  It is important to take a step back and evaluate how we manage our employees, or, better yet, empower our employees.  All managers need to be involved with their employees’ work, but the question we should ask ourselves is how involved should we be.  Managers need to be supportive, but also give employees the autonomy needed to allow them to make decisions.  This shows managers trust their employees.

However, there are two areas where managers should get more involved: preparing for a job and reviewing the job upon completion.  Harvard Professor Linda Hill and management executive Kent Lineback, authors of “Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader” (HBR Press, 2011), created a simple yet often forgotten model for managers called, Prep-Do-Review.  In this model, managers need to think of every task as three steps: prepare to act, act, and reflect on the outcome and what was learned. 

Here is how Hill and Lineback’s model works:

Prep: Start by previewing your employees’ plans with them and suggesting changes, if necessary. You do this by asking crucial questions. What are you going to do? Why, or for what purpose? How will you do it? How can you use this to make progress on our goals and plans? Who should be involved or kept informed? How can this be used to help you learn and get better? What if your assumptions are wrong or the unexpected happens? This is how you move your group's purpose, plans and work forward, how you coach and develop others, how you delegate more confidently, and how you assure yourself that someone is well-prepared and ready to act on his or her own.

Do: Based on what was learned in the Prep stage, managers can decide whether to be involved in actually performing the activity, as well as how to be involved.  If you are a manager working with a novice, you may want to perform the activity yourself while the employee observes.  Next, you may want to monitor periodically as the employee does the activity and then give feedback.  Thereafter, you probably don’t need to be present at all – the Prep and Review stages are where you’ll be involved.

Review: Great managers make post-action review a regular practice for themselves and their employees.  You can make it the focus of a one-on-one after an activity has been completed.  Or it can be part of periodic meetings with each of your employees or a standard procedure you go through in the updates your employees provide at staff meetings.  Be sure to model what you expect when you describe something you did – Here’s what we learned.  Next time we’ll do it this way.

It is imperative that managers conduct a review of the project regardless of whether the outcome was success or failure.  Most people tend to reflect on the failures.  And in most cases, people do not take the time to learn from their accomplishments and never get a full understanding of the keys to success and what lessons they can take forward.

The Prep-Do-Review model can become a powerful management tool if used consistently and consciously by managers.  The model can help managers improve how they manage their employees.  It gives managers an opportunity to be involved without directly intruding on employees’ work, which results in interactions between managers and employees becoming richer, improving outcomes, helping employees learn, and making managers better delegators.  The model also helps managers use their time more effectively by helping to determine when they need to be involved, more importantly, when not to be involved.

While I have not become a member of Control Freaks Anonymous, I have learned to be more involved in the prep and review parts of the task.  This Prep-Do-Review cycle has helped me to become more mindful and purposeful in what I do.  This model is a great way to guide your employees, get results, and help them learn without invading what they do.  I know this is not the perfect solution, but it is a powerful approach to show your employees that you trust them.