Once upon a time, a young gardener was wearing a dejected look. Anxiety was written all over his face. A witty old gardener, with experience, etched on the wrinkles of his forehead, approached him and asked, “Son, what is the matter?” The young gardener replied, “I do everything necessary for my flower-plants to bloom. I water them daily, apply pesticides, and even try talking to them. But forget about blooming, the seeds don’t even sprout!” “Is there anything else you do to the seeds?” the aged gardener calmly enquired. “Yes,” said the young gardener, “I dig up the soil every night and take the seeds out, to check whether they have sprouted or not.”
This analogy extends beyond the garden and the gardener, to workplaces, corporate offices, and even factory shop-floors. Managers desirous of digging up the soil every now and then, to check whether the seeds have sprouted, achieve very little. In an age where independence, decentralization, and autonomy are the key attributes an employee looks for in a workplace, micro-management, more-often-than-not, is a recipe for disaster. The importance of giving breathing space to team members and the ability to leave them with a non-pre-occupied and uncluttered mental space can hardly be over-emphasized. Constant interference and the knack of elbowing the delegated work is a sure sign of managerial anxiety.
One of the core purposes of forming a team is to make room for diversity of thoughts, differences in perception of a situation and the ability to chalk out distinct solutions to a given problem. By micromanaging the team, a manager, albeit indirectly, impresses his thinking pattern on his subordinates, which by extension, simply withdraws multiplicity of thoughts out of the equation. There may be different simpler and efficient ways to accomplish a said task, yet the team ends up following what the nagging manager dictates. The experience of the manager, in such a scenario, is detrimental for the team, if it does not seek validation from a fresh perspective.
The subordinates in a team owe one unwritten duty and responsibility, which no job description ever describes – that of replenishing their manager’s thoughts with oven-fresh ideas. A team becomes redundant when it loses the ability to imagine. Pre-set processes must not end up constraining head-space. Work should be delegated, but not thinking or execution patterns. The fine line between interference and involvement needs to be respected.
Besides, what organizations lack is keeping aside a deliberate time for doing ‘nothing’. Jam-packed time-sheets mean nothing if the daily routine is cramped with mindless execution. Ideas do not always seek the most intellectual minds to be their birth-grounds. Execution isn't merely about adhering to decades-old standard operating procedures. The executor needs to think as much, if not more than the strategist. Breathing space breeds novelty, and novelty nourishes brilliance.
So, will you be digging the soil to check whether the seed has sprouted? Remember, the team has to succeed due to the manager, not despite the manager!