“A company’s most important asset isn’t raw materials, transportation systems, or political influence. It’s creative capital. Simply put, an arsenal of creative thinkers whose ideas can be turned into valuable products and services. Creative employees pioneer new technology, birth new industries and power economic growth.”
Richard Florida and Jim Goodnight for Harvard Business Review. (Article)
Management is a balancing act not for the faint of heart. If you don’t supervise your team enough you run the risk of them under producing and missing deadlines. But, supervise too much you could create a team of overworked and demoralised workers. And unfortunately, over supervising – micromanagement – is far more commonplace in today’s workplace.
Anyone who has experienced micromanagement will tell you of the pain it causes and the challenges it raises both with workflow and morale. It can cause dependence in some or burn out in others who are denied the chance to work on their own terms. Both of these scenarios will kill the creativity you are seeking to instil and grind your team's most valuable asset - creative thinking - into the ground.
So, what’s the solution? Well, try macro management.
What is macro management?
Macro management is a style that focuses on the ‘big picture’ rather than getting tangled in the weeds of the day-to-day operations. It is all about shifting your mindset to focus on larger issues and simply advising or instructing other leaders how to work effectively with their teams.
Macro management is about cultivating creative thinking, an essential tool in the creative process.
It isn’t a completely ‘hands-off’ approach (as this can have its own challenges as you will find out shortly), but instead focuses on the vision rather than the production.
Benefits of Macro Management
One of the biggest challenges as a manager is to overcome our inherent bias for micro management. Our need to satisfy our near-term progress and great performance at any moment often inhibits our macro perspective. As a result, we may lose people or fail to enable others to reach their greatest potential. Outlined below are some of the core benefits of being able to adopt a more macro management approach:
- You can create a team of creative thinkers – allowing your team to work through challenges as a group will develop their capability to think creatively.
- Your team will take more ownership of their work – rather than making them feel they are working for you, they will feel like they are working for themselves and will take more pride and investment in their work.
- Your team will care more about their work – by giving your team more autonomy and allowing them to find the answers themselves, it will invite them to care more deeply about the work they do.
How to be a Good Macro Manager
It might not come naturally to you and at first, you might feel like you are losing control, but that simply isn’t the case. You are shifting your focus, not relinquishing management oversight. A good starting point is always to focus on the end goal, emphasise the importance of ‘why’ and stop focusing so much on the ‘how’. After all, as long as you get there and are delivering great work, does it matter too much how you got there?
Giving your team the chance to figure out how to reach that end goal will also give them the chance to impress you. Identifying the right solution and process demonstrates creative thinking and highlights those within your team who are the next leaders and deserving praise. Encourage them to be proud of their achievements and help them learn skills that produce even better results.
The most critical thing to crack, however, is knowing when to step in and when to step back. Don’t give your teams the answers to solutions but steer them and point out different ways of thinking that may lead to better outcomes.
Macro Management in Action
It isn’t without some pitfalls though, there are some inherent dangers to macro management that you need to be aware of. It is important that when adopting a macro management approach you strike the right balance between standing back and walking out the office altogether. Taking a too hands-off approach can make your team feel undervalued, or that there is little to no mentorship available.
Consider how your team would feel if you went from speaking to them every day about their work and their progression to once a week. Ask yourself these questions before you take on a macro management position:
- How high are the stakes? Does the end goal suffer if macro management isn’t successful?
- Will my team be negatively affected if the roles shift? Are they ‘burnt out’ or are they too dependent on leadership at this point?
- Do my current leaders have the ability to take on new macro management roles? Do I need to hire additional management positions?
- What are the risks and rewards of making the switch?
If you can confidently answer these questions then you are more than likely to benefit from making the switch. While taking a step back may feel scary, giving your employees a little more freedom can allow your team to produce better work, improve employee engagement and make your business a better place to work.
The Secret to Great Macro Management
Success factors: the specific attributes that each member of your team needs in order to be successful in his / her job. If you can state these success factors up front and then continually reinforce them throughout their development, you will find that your team respond.
The creative process does need some rules and guidance, but those work best when they are instilled in the person rather than micro managed. Give your team the best chance for success by guiding them through their own development, giving them their own objectives and providing them with the right tools to get the job done.
Great work is born from collaboration, so give your team the tools to work together effortlessly and watch the new ideas come rolling in. If you manage a team, explore the possibilities of Dropbox Paper to see how it can help you get the best from your creative thinkers.