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Interchange - November 2022

Good morning!


Below are two articles; both from Harvard Business Review, that outlines sort of the Ying and the Yang of a dilemma of management. One about micromanaging, and the other about under managing. You'll see that I have included HBR's executive summary with my bold italics added for emphasis.


After the executive summary in each case is a link to the full article and after both articles is an article that we wrote (it's a one-pager) on supportive accountability. …all tolled there is only 2 ¼ pages of copy below, so it is a quick read.  Take a few minutes to read these and we will discuss questions together in our session next week:


  1. What specific steps can you take to increase supportive accountability in your organization?

  2. What specific steps can you take to increase the propensity for coaching in your organization?

  3. How do you, personally make these steps habitual?


How to Help (Without Micromanaging)

HBR’s Executive Summary:  Extensive research shows that when employees get hands-on managerial support, they perform better than when they’re left to their own devices, but unnecessary or unwanted help can be demoralizing and counterproductive. So how do you intervene constructively?

The authors share three key lessons learned during 10 years of study:

(1) Step in only when people are engaged in a challenging task and ready to accept help;

(2) clarify that your role is to offer assistance, not take over the project or judge anyone; and

(3) align the rhythm of your involvement to employees’ needs, determining whether the situation calls for intensive guidance in the short term or intermittent path clearing over a prolonged period.

These strategies are especially valuable for helping teams that are physically separated, as so many are during the current pandemic.

Read the full article:


Under-Management Is the Flip Side of Micromanagement — and It’s a Problem Too

HBR’s Executive Summary: Micromanagement gets most of the attention, but under-management may be just as big a problem. This is the term I’ve given to a constellation of behaviors that I’ve seen occurring together often: weak performance management, a tendency to avoid conflicts with employees, and generally lackluster accountability.

Results often suffer as a result. But under-management can often fly under the radar because the managers who have these tendencies aren’t necessarily incompetent; on the contrary, they often know their business well, are good collaborators, and are well-liked. If you suspect you are under-managing, commit to no longer avoiding conflict, accept that goal-setting is critical to your work, and make sure your employees know you will hold them accountable by at times asking them “is this the best you can do”?

Read the full article:




“Managers don’t hold people accountable here.”


“If only people around here were more accountable.”


We often hear these complaints from both organizational leaders and staff. Certainly, people want others to be held “accountable.” After all, we know that accountability is a key ingredient to the success of any organization. Why, then, does there seem to be such a widespread absence of accountability in the modern workplace?


A large part of the answer lies in a misunderstanding of the word “accountable”. Accountability is often equated with blame. The statement “someone needs to be held accountable” is typically used to suggest that someone should be fired. Recent studies suggest that performance reviews that mainly focus on blame are demotivational. Productivity has been shown to suffer for months after this type of review.  Most managers know this intuitively and avoid it…and with-it accountability itself. 


What can leaders do to shift accountability from a negative force to something productive and positive? The root of the word; “account” gives us the first clue. Accountability simply involves keeping an accounting of results produced compared to results promised. Nothing more. It’s a matter-of-fact assessment of the promises a person has made. To do this, there must be clearly agreed-upon Key Performance Indicators that the person has promised that measure their effectiveness in their job. 


If this accounting is to be truly supportive, it must include both 1) A celebration of the successes a person has had, and 2) Acknowledgement of the failures; with no blame, no fact, taking away their self-blame or shame will reduce defensiveness.  This matter-of-fact assessment should take minutes…it’s like a driver looking at the dashboard to monitor their speed…and then making adjustments.


Making Adjustments:  In either case the conversation sets the stage for a supportive conversation to help improve performance; a coaching discussion rather than a confrontation.  In the case of successes, the question:  What can you do to maintain or expand this success?  In the case of failures:  What barriers, internal or external impeded your performance…and how might you break through those barriers?


Keep in mind, coaching is only coaching if it is asked for.  Making sure the person knows they are succeeding or failing opens the door naturally for them to ask.


Finally, leadership must precede management.  Engendering a compelling commitment from people will lead them to naturally embrace being held accountable for results. They will feel more motivated to fulfill the promises they’ve made, and they’ll know that having someone hold them accountable is a good way to support their personal success.



We look forward to seeing you next week!

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