Five signs you're a 'macro manager' (and why it's not a good thing)

"A single instruction that expands automatically into a set of instructions to perform a particular task."

That is the Oxford dictionary definition of "macro", when the noun is used in relation to computers. In that case the noun is seen as a positive. It means that one tiny action can trigger a huge chain result. But, is the same definition flattering when used to talk about a managing style? I don't think so.

There is often a lot of criticism lobbed at 'micro managers' – bosses who give excessive supervision to their employees. But, I would also argue that some leaders are in danger of going too far in the opposite direction. They give one instruction and then disconnect, not offering any guidance or support, and not taking any responsibility.

The truth is there is a fine line between delegating and deserting. An overly absent boss (both emotionally and physically) can be as toxic to team morale as a leader who smothers.

Wondering which camp you fall into? Here are some signs you could be a macro manager.

You expect staff to mind-read

You have a big vision in your head and, after a one-line email, expect your team to recreate it perfectly.

Don't get me wrong: it's fine not to give complex instructions if you are genuinely happy for your team to put their own stamp on a project. But if you are attached to a certain outcome and want the project to perfectly replicate your lightbulb, then it's your responsibility to communicate it as such.

You're a digital under-sharer

Remember when you told your staff to sign up to Google Drive so you could collaborate on shared documents? When you urged them to get Trello so you could track each other's to-do lists, and sign up to Yammer so you could all communicate when you weren't in the office?

It's not enough to implement these collaborative technologies unless you take a second to log into them. Just saying …


You've never seen your team in natural light

I personally believe it's important to bond with your senior team in a non-office environment. This doesn't mean you have to invite them around for sleepovers (although some of my team have keys to my apartment).

But, I also intermittently organise excursions. It could be as simple as a trip to a stationery store with my art director to buy new calligraphy pens or a brainstorming day by a pool with my deputy editor.

You let your 'out of office' do the talking

I step onto a plane at least once a week, whether I'm travelling across the country for a speaking gig or across the world for a conference. But if I'm going to be away for more than 24 hours, I try to ensure that my team know where I'm going, when I will be back and during which hours I will be contactable.

I will send out a group email or speak to my core team personally, so they aren't left questioning whether I'm AWOL. An email bounce-back is good enough for distant acquaintances, but this is your professional family.

You point the finger of blame

I personally believe that some 'macro managing' is fear-driven. If you delegate projects completely and they don't go well then you can detach from the outcome and think, 'It failed because they made it fail'.

You don't have to take responsibility because it wasn't according to your instruction. The truth is that as a leader, every success and every failure is yours by association anyway. So give a task the best chance of succeeding by injecting it with your knowledge and experience.

The bad news is, it is your problem. The good news? It's your win too.

What management style prevails in your office? Let us know in the comment section. 

The founder and editor-in-chief of The Collective, a monthly business and lifestyle magazine, Lisa Messenger has become a leading authority on the business world, specialising in entrepreneurship and disruption. She has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books and three times been a finalist in the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year awards.

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