In many of my mid and senior leadership interactions, I have repeatedly come across this question about when to manage closely and when to manage from distance? Well, in my opinion the answer is — it depends on the situation and your leadership style.
All leaders encounter different situations and challenges on a regular basis. Each situation provides us an opportunity to offer a relevant solution and at times even if situation is similar, there will be a need to come up with a creative or alternate solution. The basic point to understand here is what’s at hand and how serious or critical is it? Let’s take an example to understand this better.
Mr.B is a Production manager at an inverter battery manufacturing unit in Gurgaon. His company has another production unit near Pune, and they are a reputed brand. The company has 60% market share in Maharashtra and Northern region, and this is possible due to an efficient supply chain and a reliable customer service. In his regular routine Mr.B would manage his production schedule in a very organized way and make sure steady supply to its network. We can say that he would manage his day-to-day work by working with his team, delegating work and reviewing it periodically. In a way, he is allowing his team to manage the operations and make sure that he provides enough monitoring and reviews so that his production plan is met with.
At the Pune factory, one fine day workers decide to go on strike and this has led to production being affected. While the management is trying to discuss and resolve the issue with workers, it sees that this is causing production delays, while there is a steady demand. They decide to increase production at Gurgaon facility managed by Mr.B. This is a new situation for Mr.B and it requires him and his team to rejig some of their activities to ensure they raise production capacity, acquire additional materials and add more workforce to deliver the production numbers. In a situation of this kind, Mr. B may have to manage this situation very closely. For some areas he may also decide to monitor preparedness by the hour. He will be required to have frequent meetings with his team, in many cases he would be the only person deciding, and team will be only implementing. This would continue till the time the production levels matches corresponding demand or till the Pune factory production is resumed. If you notice in this example, Mr.B switched his management style according to the changed situation.
After a month of negotiation, workers and management could arrive at a resolution and Pune factory resumed operations. With this development , Mr.B is now required to plan production as per his earlier plans, and he would gradually switch back to his normal management style.
In the above situation, as you would have noticed the trigger was the strike at Pune plant. Before the crises, Mr. B was managing from distance or not micromanaging. As soon as new situation developed, and he was required to deliver more output in a shorter time span, he had to adapt a new leadership style as soon as the situation changed to ensure that their business continues and meets demands from customer.
While above was an example, it is also important to note that crises is not necessarily the only trigger. We may have positive triggers where we would have to manage closely or micromanage. Examples like Product Launch, relocating office to a newer location, change over from one IT application to other, etc… could be other instances where we may have to switch our style and choose either micro management or manage from distance as the case may be.