Business Strategy, Leadership

Hands-on management produces worse results

We’ve all worked in a job where a manager decides to be more “hands-on”… read “micromanagement”. We know what it feels like from the micromanaged side, but we the manager probably believes she/he is doing what’s best for the department, the project, the company, etc.

A recent HBR article puts the effects of hands-on management into a category that business leaders can understand: hands-on management hurts the bottom line. Period. (see “A Survey of How 1,000 CEOs Spend Their Day Reveals What Makes Leaders Successful” in HBR and “Scientists Studied the Daily Lives of 1,000 CEOs. Here’s the 1 Thing The Successful Ones Did” in Inc)

The author writes:

In new research, we use survey data from over 1,000 CEOs across six countries and the financial performance of their companies to explore these questions. And our evidence suggests that hands-on managerial CEOs are, on average, less effective than leaders who stay more high-level.

Here’s the thing… for many managers, a hands-off approach is counter-intuitive. If the manager is responsible for the results, then “it makes sense” that the manager keep everything under her/his control. But, as the article points out, this type of management actually produces worse results. Worse financial results. A worse bottom line. Now that should get some people thinking.

But, changing from a hands-on type of management to a hands-off type of management is not as simple as flipping a switch. It takes…

Humility. Can you give up control for the greater good?

Trust. Can you trust that your staff can do their job better than you can do everyone’s job?

Example. Are you willing to lead by example by carrying out your responsibilities to the best of your ability?

Communication. That’s right… you know need to communicate effectively more than ever.

And the list goes on and on…

What else is required for a hands-on manager to shift to a hands-off type of leadership style?

6 Comments on “Hands-on management produces worse results

  1. I find it hard to let go because our small business was started by me and many of the relationships we have with large clients are still maintained by me. Maybe this is not an answer to management style but I have found out in order to allow for growth I have to take a more hands-off approach and give others the freedom to accomplish tasks without my oversight. Taking my “hands-off” has resulted not only in business growth but also in the development and growth of the employee which in turn gives me more freedom.

    1. I found out in that situation, educate your people, your employees to apply humility, apply trust within each other, communicate well with each other without you having to be there. That’s the balance, you’re not in there micromanaging, but you’re there to teach the principles which in return keeps the business alive, A lot of times micromanaging is the result of fear within the leader. Not to get into great detail explaining breaking down fear and Brraking down principles but that’s the bottom line. And I’m sure Alan you would agree with that.


  2. Practical advice for any group, organization or situation where tasks are delegated to people — home, school, church, business, government, community clubs — because people are the same in each of these situations. Good thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  3. It took several things for me. Too many people to be able to micro-manage. Believing that people who lived in their work processes and roles every day know more than anyone else what needs to be done, fixed, changed, etc. That belief was more cerebral than practicial at first. I acknowledged that truth but didn’t practice it.

    One day, as I watched some guys working, I had a good idea for improving their department. I did a little research, outlined the improved tools/methods, and “suggested” they look at implementing them. I didn’t mean they had a choice, but I tried to position it that way. You know, to be in keeping with what I was coming to believe.

    I would never have considered micro-managing everything they did. But I was taking over the fun part of their job–making changes that would benefit them. A few days later, I asked, “How are the new changes coming along?” To my astonishment, I was told they decided on another way. I didn’t say anything. I went back to my office and I was steaming mad! Then it dawned on me. This is what I believed, that they could and should make these sort of changes. And I had been advocating they did. Finally, they challenged me. I went from angry to euphoric. I won. They won.

    For a few weeks afterwards, every couple of days, I would ask how my changes were going, They would laugh and say, “We came up with a different fix.” I’d laugh with them. I still think my proposed changes were better, but not worth getting if it took away their initiative and sense of being able to control and improve their work. In the next few months, they instituted more great changes.that I would never have even noticed needed being done. Same in other departments.

    When we unleash the power of a workforce, give them back power to make the kind of decisions they make every day in their personal lives (to empower people you first have to disempower them), it is amazing what can be accomplished. Productivity, morale, as well as fun and growing together all grew. That was nearly 20 years ago.

    I think the same is true in the church. When one or two people dominate the activity, decision making, functioning, of say one pastor to 85 people, you have 85 pew potatoes not working very hard, and one exhausted professional pastor. Not at all what God has in mind…

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