A Useful Tool for Managing Well

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“Manage” is not a bad word. And, as a leader, you shouldn’t be afraid to use it. However, micromanaging your team creates dependency, stifles creativity, and implies that you don’t trust anyone but yourself. At the other extreme, a completely hands-off management style exposes your organization to a tremendous amount of risk and calls into question your commitment and desire to lead.

I have found that a good old fashioned work plan, properly implemented, can be an effective tool that strikes the ideal balance between the dangers of negligent hands-off management and mind numbing micromanagement.

Cast the Vision and State the Goals

Begin by sharing the vision of your organization with your direct reports. Explain the goals and priorities for both the short- and long-term. Be specific. Use numbers and dates.

Ask for a Plan

Don’t make the mistake of writing work plans for others. Ask your direct reports to come up with their own plans. Here’s why:

  • It encourages people to think for themselves and strengthens their initiative taking and problem solving “muscles.”
  • It engages them. People tend to be more enthusiastic about implementing a plan that they had a hand in developing.
  • It demonstrates that you value and trust them, which in turn drives loyalty and commitment.

So, provide a template, set guidelines (this wiki is a good place to start: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Work-Plan), and then let them run with it.

Critique and Improve

Have each direct report present their work plan to you and provide them with constructive feedback.

Verify that each objective is SMART:

  • Specific (How exactly will the objective be achieved?)
  • Measurable (How will we know if we’re making progress towards the objective?)
  • Achievable (Is it ambitious, yet feasible?)
  • Relevant (Will completing this objective help us get nearer to our overall goals and vision?)
  • Time Bound (When will the objective be completed?)


Link a portion of your employees’ compensation to the successful execution of either individual objectives or the companywide attainment of goals. Pay for performance.

Replicate It

After you’re satisfied with your team’s work plans, have them lead their own direct reports through the development of work plans. This will effectively drive down into the organization a culture of structured decision making, accountability, and ownership.

Give Them Room to Work, but Don’t Disappear

Some employees look for too much direction and others don’t seek enough of it. Periodically, make yourself available to those seeking direction and allow them to bounce ideas off you, but don’t tell them what to do. Check in occasionally with those who don’t seek any oversight and see if they’re on a trajectory to complete their objectives.

A final word on work plans: Failing to monitor your team’s work plans, making exceptions and bending the rules will allow the cracks of chaos to form in your organization’s foundation. Either hold yourself and your team accountable to following work plans, or don’t bother using them.

“Team Leader” by jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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