Exercising control on your team: How to strike a balance?

As a manager, you have to wear multiple hats often. You can find yourself making strategic decisions on a day with the same ease with which you resolve conflicts another day. Your input is needed at multiple places, and it might be common to find yourself stretched too thin across the team. Therefore, you need to identify the parts you can control and the parts you do not need to. Out of the latter, you can delegate some to your team members and create a system of regular checks and balances. Otherwise, you can create designs that work independently. 

In both cases, you will need to begin by identifying your optimum span of control. Your optimum span of control is the number of people and tasks you can manage effectively. It is the ideal amount of authority and responsibility that you should hold. Beyond this limit, the quality of management will suffer. The optimum span of control does not have a fixed criterion. The concept is subjective; therefore, your optimum span of control will depend on factors unique to you and your team. To figure this out, you can look at the 6 factors to consider for creating an optimal span of control for managers

Once you have understood your capacities, you will need to figure out exactly how much you should manage. We know that managers have to do a lot in their teams – from coordinating to ensuring the welfare of all the stakeholders – but they cannot be practically involved in every task. The number of functions will be simply overwhelming. Moreover, the team and members need autonomy and responsibility too. They cannot function in line with clear-cut directions always. Innovation and creativity are built out of the box. Therefore, managers need to establish a balance between controlling and inspiring their teams. 

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You will sometimes have to jump straight into business and direct operations minutely. However, controlling too much can be damaging! Therefore, sometimes, you need to take a light breath and let things flow. Your team will work with your implicit directions when you find ways to inspire them.

A “controlling” manager brings several harms to the team. When you are in the middle of choosing between control and inspiration, you need to understand the causes and effects of both. Managers usually drift towards a strict approach when they cannot trust their team members fully. Due to the lack of trust, they fear that the employees will make mistakes. The habit of exercising authority can make one a micromanager, too, especially when they are hypercritical and set unrealistic expectations for the team. In such a scenario, micromanaging is detrimental to the team’s performance. Here are 5 reasons managers avoid micromanagement at all costs. You will find helpful tips too!

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Just exercising control as a manager is neither wrong nor right. It typically depends on numerous factors. Too much control is micromanagement, which has its harms. But too much freedom to move is a sure-shot way to chaos. When teams receive only inspiration from their managers without vision and direction, they quickly go astray. Therefore, exercising control is definitely not the evil you need to fight. All you need to do is find an appropriate balance that gives your team adequate space to grow and direction to move forward.

Although we paint a negative picture of control generally, it can be good sometimes. Micromanagement, which refers to extremely close supervision of employees, can be a productivity enhancer when used sporadically. Despite all the drawbacks, hand holding, usually a micromanaged approach, is a great way to get new employees started at work. There are a few other scenarios where micromanagement can be an excellent tool for managers. Read here to see some specific situations where managers can use micromanagement

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In the end, your management style is a question of your contingencies. Either you can change them or make your way through them. You must figure out the best combination of inspiration and control that serves your team’s purpose. Remember that neither approach is always good nor bad. You will keep moving forward as long as you analyze and pick the best options possible. Be cautious not to fall into the pitfall of either overdose, and you will steer your team skillfully through highs and lows smartly.  

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