The Leadership Sweet Spot Between Micromanager and Facilitator

Best Practices, Leadership

There are a ridiculous amount of blog posts, conferences, training programs and experts out there with opinions that run the gamut when it comes to the best management styles. One camp is behind responsibility and accountability culture, and another believes in the continuous feedback and constant goal-tracking style. There are a ton of different best practices out there, but if they’re conflicting, how can they really all be “best practice”?

So how are leaders supposed to find that sweet spot in leadership that makes room for both empowerment and getting the job done? Well a pretty large-scale, brand new Leadership IQ study might just help with that age-old question. This 2014 study of 32,410 North American executives, managers and employees asked these two very important questions (among many others) to get the answer:

  • “How many hours per week DO people spend interacting with their direct leader?”
  • “How many hours per week SHOULD people spend interacting with their direct leader?”

The median amount of time that workers spend interacting with their direct leader is 3 hours.

Does that sound about right? It shouldn’t, because the study concluded that this was not a sufficient amount of time for employees to spend with their direct leaders. Just about half of those surveyed spend 3 hours or less per week interacting with their direct leaders. They also found that 20% of people spend as little as 1 hour per week. If 3 hours isn’t cutting it, what is the magic number reported by these survey participants?

The survey reported that the optimal amount of time for workers to spend interacting with their direct leader is 6 hours.

The study revealed that less than 30% of workers spend 6 or more hours per week with their direct leader. The other 70% of employees are not getting a sufficient amount of time with their leaders, and it is causing a myriad of completely avoidable issues in the workforce. Those workers who receive the adequate amount of interaction from their leaders are more inspired, engaged, innovative, and more intrinsically motivated. As attraction and retention continue to top the list of concerns that business owners are facing today, the solution to these common business issues could be as simple as more time spent.

Sometimes, you can have too much of a good thing

That being said, the study also revealed that there is such a thing as “too much time”. In the same manner that traits like inspiration, engagement, motivation etc., shot up with more time spent with a direct leader, these traits also took a hit when the 6-hour mark was surpassed. I’m telling you, they literally found the sweet spot.

In other words, there seem to be negative returns from employees when they interact with their direct leaders for more than 6 hours per week. Surprised? I know I was. Engagement was the most strongly affected trait, increasing 30% from those employees who only spend an hour per week with their direct leader, to those who spend 6. You would think that such dramatic increases would continue to climb for each of the traits mentioned, but they all level off, or decline.

Face-to-face time wins

The study also revealed that this 6-hour sweet spot of time is most optimally spent face-to-face. While email is an unavoidable part of communication today, remember to work in some one-on-one time to get the most out of your 6 hours.

The moral of the story is that most leaders aren’t spending enough time with their employees. Is that really something we didn’t know? No, but most of us probably had no clue that the optimal amount of time to spend with workers was so attainable! 6 hours isn’t asking too much, especially when you consider the kinds of returns in motivation, innovation and engagement that this study revealed.

I’d like to end on a friendly note reminding leaders to enjoy this time with their workers, and keep in mind the successes that can come of a more employee-centric culture. Please do not cram this time into another useless meeting. Nice try, but it doesn’t count.

This post originally appeared on GlassDoor.

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