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Micromanager, Absentee Manager or Thought Partner — Which One Are You?

We call managers who have low, almost non-existent involvement in their team’s work absentee managers. Those with extremely (maybe excruciatingly) close involvement are micromanagers. And in between those are the thought partners, the ones who empower, enable and encourage their teams to do the best work of their lives. How can you determine where you fall on this spectrum so you can learn how to move in the right direction instead of being a micromanager or an absentee manager?

To help you figure out when you’re being a good partner rather than slipping into micromanagement or absentee management, I’ve developed a simple chart. I hope it will help you partner better with the people who report to you. One of the best ways to keep the people on your team engaged is by actively partnering with them.

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No one wants to work for an absentee manager who makes it feel like there is no one in charge at all. In general, absentee managers don’t give guidance, aren’t open to receiving feedback and don’t assist their employees. They also tend to lack curiosity about what their employees are doing. Even worse, they might not want to know at all. A true absentee manager doesn’t want any details, which allows them to remain unaware of problems.

On the other hand, a micromanager gets in the weeds with everything their employees do. While they have no problem expressing their opinions, they’re not skilled at listening to others. This means they often create more problems than they solve. Micromanagers only see one way to do things — their way.

They lack curiosity, get lost in small details instead of seeing the big picture and often ask their employees to spend a lot of time updating them on their every move. A micromanager tells employees how to solve problems with no real knowledge of the actual issues, then watches from a safe distance to avoid being burned in the explosion.

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While a lot of people are absentee or micro managers, no one thinks they are either of these things. However, if you’re not doing what’s necessary to be a real partner, you are one of the former whether you like it or not. In order to be a true thought partner with each of your employees you need to be involved, listen with the intent to understand versus respond and ask relevant questions.

If you want to be a kick-ass boss instead of having team members who want to kick your ass, work with your employees to set goals that make sense, actively listen to problems and help brainstorm solutions. The bottom line: A true thought partnership is a team effort.

Kim Scott

Kim Scott is the author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss without Losing your Humanity and the co-founder of Radical Candor LLC. A former CEO coach for several tech companies, including Dropbox, Qualtrics and Twitter, she has also managed a pediatric clinic in Kosovo and started a diamond cutting factory in Moscow. In addition to Radical Candor, she is the author of three novels and the forthcoming leadership book Just Work: Get Sh*t Done, Fast & Fair, available March 16, 2021 from St. Martin’s Press.