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Freedom Comes with Responsibility

Say what you want but there is a correlation between the level of freedom given and the level of responsibility demonstrated (in good management practices). Each time I speak to leaders and managers this is a recurring topic; I want people to take responsibility. 


Please do not fall for the online nonsense of "Micromanagement is toxic". No darling, some of you out there need to be reminded to put on the other half of your pair of socks because you turned up to your shift with half a pair on so it is likely that I will have to micromanage you. True story by the way:-)))


There are many ways we can approach this topic but this is how I did it with my guys at a lifestyle brand that required a high level of responsibility. I used to tell them, "Here you get all the freedom to do what is best for the guest but it comes with responsibility. If you mess up you will be dealt with." Guess what? People got it! I never understood why simple conversations like this don't take place at organisations. People need to be treated as grown adults! 


I had a session yesterday with a group of managers about their struggles with Gen Z where they complained that they don't take responsibility for mistakes and always find excuses to which I replied, "No, you are the one who is listening to excuses." Teaching people responsibility is just as much our role as teaching them how to do the job and it starts with setting expectations and communicating it, "Hey, if you mess up just say it so we can figure out how to help you. If you constantly mess up we then have a different conversation." I never had anybody getting offended over this. 


But here is the trick. We must also recognise who has a high level of responsibility and who doesn't. You will always have people who don't want to take responsibility and it will show in the forms of; not making decisions, not bringing ideas, not picking up tasks that need to be completed etc. But they can still take responsibility for the job they are hired to do. When that fails you have two options; micromanagement or PDP. 


Contrary to the social media woke brigade out there, micromanagement is sometimes a must and necessary. If my staff is constantly behind in their tasks I will manage their time and workload. Some people need that because they just cannot manage and coordinate tasks, time, and interactions. They get derailed somewhere causing delays in task completion, deadlines etc. When I notice this I take over very quickly. Freedom is for those who can handle it, they don't need micromanagement. But if you have a person who delivers with little supervision and you try to micromanage them they will leave you. 


Teaching responsibility can be difficult but not impossible. I do that through consequences. Here are two examples you can use as a base and adapt to your situation. 


Example 1:

Let's say you have your team who are given the task of completing a quick online survey that is required for the workshop they will attend. Four of them haven't completed it out of the 20, two hours before the deadline. There are two options I would consider; 1, call all of them together and make them sit down to complete the survey - micromanagement. 2, Those 4 would not be allowed to attend the workshop because it seems they are not interested. Exclusion hurts and teaches a great deal so don't be afraid of using it but be rational about it. Here I would say that the pre-requisite to the workshop is survey completion, if you didn't complete the survey you cannot attend the session. Done! No drama! I hate drama! 


Example 2:

You have given a task to five of your staff and you agreed on the deadline. You check in with them regularly about their progress and if they need any help. On the deadline day, one of them says that it is not done bla bla bla. You say, "I checked in with you several times and you said everything was on track." Then the person would say whatever... to which you say "No problem, I will give it to Andrew to finish it as he managed his part really well." Needless to say, you don't do that if the person has some legitimate reason for the delay. Be fair and reasonable! That's it! No stories, no whys, no drama, nothing. You test the person one more time to see whether or not he/she learned the lesson. If not, you have two options; micromanage or PIP. 


Don't be afraid of managing performance! I see managers and leaders tiptoeing around their staff because they want to be "nice". Your employees need clear expectations, fair treatment, respectful behaviour, and you to teach them how to conduct themselves. This is what is like to be "nice" and not sweep things under the carpet because you "want to keep the peace". You can do both. 


PS: I hate micromanaging my people but I am also quick to identify which one needs it and I provide it because that's one way of managing performance and I am ok with that. I genuinely have no problem with people who needs guidance I just need to make sure there are not too many on the team otherwise that's a guaranteed shit show. 


Exciting news! My second book, "Blind Leading the Disengaged - From Kindergarten to Employee Experience," is dropping in April! It's a treasure trove of solutions and cool ideas to shake up your people management game. But before we get there, let's chat about where we're at now—The Corporate Kindergarten, as I spilt the beans in my first book. Check it out, and let's transform your workplace from a daycare to an awesome employee experience hub!:




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