Macromanagement is a management style where you give your employees control and autonomy over their work. Instead of telling team members what to do, macro managers provide the context team members need to prioritize and execute their high-impact work. This management style can increase trust, engagement, and ownership on your team. In this article, learn how macromanagement differs from micromanagement. Plus, get eight tips to become a great macro manager.
Raise your hand if you've ever thought to yourself, "This will get done faster if I do it myself."
If we're being honest, we've all probably had that urge. When something is stressful and a due date is coming up, your knee-jerk reaction might be to just take over your team member's work. But this "tell model" of managing actually reduces creativity and stifles idea generation. You may have heard it referred to by another name: micromanagement.
The antidote to micromanagement is macromanagement. Instead of a "tell model," macromanagement uses a "teach model" to help you empower your team members.
Being a macro manger is all about giving your employees the reins. This management strategy can increase autonomy, ownership, and engagement on your team. But even though there are a lot of advantages, learning how to be a macro manager takes time and effort. If you’re ready to get started, here’s how.
Macromanagement is a hands-off leadership style that gives employees control and autonomy over their work. Instead of providing directive feedback on individual tasks, macro managers connect their team's work to broader strategic goals. By clarifying where they need to go, macro managers make it easy for team members to figure out the best way to get there.
A macro manager’s end goal is to help their direct reports learn for themselves. To do so, macro managers focus on outcomes and goals and allow their employees to decide the best way to achieve those objectives.
Macro managers embrace the big picture. They give employees control over decisions and empower team members to use their creativity to get their best work done. Rather than obsessing over the details, macro managers drive alignment by tying their team's work directly to larger strategic goals.
The best way to do this is to explain the "why" behind your team goals. Your team members already know what they should be working on—but clarifying why their work matters helps them better prioritize their work.
Key skills to learn as a macro manager include:
Goal setting and dot-connecting
Giving employees control
Just like macro and micro are opposites, so too are macromanagement and micromanagement. Macro managers are outcome-oriented leaders who focus on long-term goals. They give their teams the context they need to succeed and make decisions. That way, team members are empowered to take the lead and make decisions about how to get their best work done.
Micromanagers are the opposite—these leaders prioritize the short-term details. Micromanagers are output oriented, and they are typically very directive about how and when work should be done. Though there are some benefits, without a careful approach, micromanagement can lead to:
Lack of autonomy
Prioritization of short-term goals over long-term vision
Reduced team morale
Learning to macro manage can be daunting. Giving someone else control of work you’re responsible for is initially uncomfortable and requires a great deal of trust.
Leaning into macromanagement means sharing responsibility with your team and taking more of a coaching and mentorship role. This is exciting for both you and the team member, but it does come with some drawbacks as well.
Common macromanagement pitfalls
New managers may be uncomfortable or unused to this style.
Requires more long-term thinking from the manager.
Not great for short-term results.
Some team members too used to micromanagers may struggle under a macro manager.
But as you can imagine, with enough preparation and planning, the pros vastly outweigh the cons:
The benefits of macromanagement
Gives employees autonomy.
Team members get to develop their skills.
Increases employee engagement.
Supercharges intrinsic motivation.
Can lead to more creative and “out of the box” thinking.
Better for long-term strategy.
Drives strategic alignment.
Emphasizes transparency and clarity.
Values creativity, curiosity, and collaboration.
There are a variety of management styles, and each one has their benefits and drawbacks. The best leaders adapt their management style to each team member and situation.
This takes time and practice. To get started blending your management style, read about the 11 most common leadership styles. You’re probably already using some of these practices, while others might be great additions to your day to day habits.Read: What you need to know about the democratic leadership style
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to hybrid work, and we’ve seen more teams turn to virtual collaboration. Just like an in-person team, virtual teams can benefit from a variety of management styles. But macromanagement brings its own set of advantages for remote teams.
Team members in virtual or hybrid teams tend to value flexibility—which is one of the main benefits of macromanagement. In fact, according to the Anatomy of Work Index, 35% of knowledge workers said having a flexible approach to working hours is critical towards improving remote work-life balance.
Remote macromanagement can demonstrate how much you trust your team members and show your employees how much they add to the team, even if you don’t regularly get together in person. Remote team members may work in different time zones or have flexible schedules, so giving them the reins also lets them schedule their work in the way that makes most sense for them.
Macromanagement is a great way to empower your employees and give them more autonomy. Many managers find that macromanagement increases team creativity and engagement. But before you try this management style, check out eight tips to effectively implement the macromanagement approach.
A key element of macromanagement is to give your employees a clear sense of your end goal. If you’re going to give them the steering wheel, they need to know where they’re going.
At Asana, we call this the pyramid of clarity, and it’s a way to get everyone on your team aligned on the high-level purpose of the work you’re doing. In order for your team to be effective while you macro manage them, they need a clear picture of who’s doing what by when. By understanding what initiatives their work is supporting and what goals those initiatives are working towards, they can more effectively prioritize and execute their work.
In particular, make sure they know:
How their work is contributing to the larger team and company goals
What work is most important
Which due dates they can’t miss
Any flexible work or due dates
Seeing who's doing what by when is half the battle—actually coordinating work is the other half. Macromanagement is all about connecting daily work to larger goals, so make sure your team has a clear way to access updates and task information in real-time. By connecting the people, processes, and outcomes in one place, everyone can see the strategic impact they're driving.
The best way to do this is with reporting tools—in particular, universal reporting. Universal reporting uses data that's baked into the tools you already use, so it doesn't take any additional manual work to generate amazing insights. With Asana, you have direct access to project and organization-wide dashboards to visualize team information in real-time.
Oftentimes, managers are the ones guiding their team and leading the charge. As a macro manager, your goal is to do the opposite—let your employees drive and support them if and when they need it. But in order for your team to be their most effective selves, they need to understand exactly who is responsible for what.
Clarifying roles and responsibilities takes time, but the benefits compound. According to our research, individuals could save 6 hours and 5 minutes every week—290 hours per year—through improved processes—for example, by clearly defining roles and responsibilities.
If you haven’t already, clarify roles and responsibilities at the team, project, and cross-functional level. Every task should have only one responsible person assigned to it, so team members know who to go to with any questions or concerns. Record these roles and responsibilities in a shared document—for example, in a RACI chart—so team members have something to refer to.Read: Your guide to RACI charts, with examples
We all know how de-motivating it can be to present a new idea or suggestion to a manager, only to have it be shot down immediately. In fact, such a scenario is textbook micromanaging, because it implies your manager already has an answer figured out—without you.
One of the best ways to empower your team and increase their autonomy is to listen and ask questions. Whenever you approach a new conversation, make sure you're leading with curiosity and asking questions to learn more. Try to avoid already having answers in mind—instead, practice active listening to ensure you're hearing your team's ideas.
Sometimes, your employees might make a suggestion that doesn't fit within your team's larger strategic objectives. In that case, instead of shooting down their ideas, share the big-picture context and work with your team members to come up with innovative solutions. Instead of presenting the solution yourself, use this opportunity to lead a brainstorming session. You never know—you might just arrive at a solution you yourself wouldn't have thought of!
As a macro manager, you need to be prepared to let your team members take control of their time. In particular, encourage them to create time blocks of focus time, and to mute notifications where necessary.
This is something that’s missing right now. According to the Anatomy of Work Index, eight in ten (80%) respondents report working with their inbox or other communication apps open. As a result of battling ongoing distractions, nearly three in four employees (72%) feel pressure to multitask during the day.
By encouraging employees to disable notifications when they’re in flow state, you are not only giving them more time to be focused, but you’re also demonstrating your trust in them. You don’t need to be in contact for the entire business day to know that your team members are doing a good job.
To pull this off, clarity is key. Make sure your communication tools have a way to not only disable notifications but to also let your team know when notifications are disabled. That way, you know not to expect an immediate reply, and even have a general sense of when the team member will be back online and available.Read: 5 multitasking myths debunked, plus 6 ways to be productive without task switching
Macromanagement gives your employees control of their work, but you still need to be available for problem solving and support as needed. Your role as a macro manager is one of cheerleading, supporting, and coaching. Don’t forget to lead by example and set the standard for work on your team.
One of the best ways to be there for your team is to set up a system to manage and coordinate work. When everyone knows who’s doing what by when, team members have visibility and clarity into what work needs to be done and who is responsible for it. This is critically important for most team members—according to the Anatomy of Work Index, nearly 70% of team members would feel better equipped to hit personal targets with clear processes in place to manage work
That’s where work management comes in. Work management tools keep your team’s tasks, projects, and processes organized so you can stay in sync and hit your deadlines. Giving your team members the visibility they need to succeed also lets you take a step back and trust them with the processes.Try Asana for work management
The biggest disadvantage of macro management is that your employees may feel unsupported. Part of being an effective macro manager is to know when to back off, but make sure your team knows they can always come to you for help.
Before you hand off or assign any work, make sure your team understands how their work contributes to larger strategic goals. When team members understand the goals their work is supporting, they’re more able to effectively prioritize and execute work.
Then, once you hand off work, get a bird’s-eye view of your team’s projects with project portfolio management (PPM). PPM is the centralized management of multiple projects. It gives you a high-level view of your team’s work without getting bogged down with the details. In particular, pay attention to:
How developed their project plans are (Do their projects have a direction?)
How clear their objectives and success metrics are (Is their work quantifiable?)
How they are looping stakeholders in (Do the right people know about the work?)
How each project is performing (Is the project status on track, at risk, or off track?)
As a manager, it’s your responsibility to set the standard for how your team members will behave. A huge part of this is making it clear that they should take time for themselves and prevent overwork. Repeated overwork and stress leads to burnout, which is currently at a record high. In 2019, the World Health Organization classified burnout as an occupational phenomenon resulting from chronic workplace stress. And in 2020, 7 in 10 (71%) respondents experienced burnout at least once in the past year.
In addition to encouraging your team members to take time when they need it, make sure they’re only working on their most important tasks. A great way to do this is with an Eisenhower matrix. An Eisenhower matrix sorts work by urgency and importance, breaking tasks into four categories:
Urgent and important
Urgent but not important
Not urgent but important
Not urgent and not important
To address and prevent burnout, make it clear that you trust your team members to get their highest impact work done. Give your employees the reins to prioritize work that needs to get done, delegate tasks that someone else can do, and defer work that is low priority.Read: The manager’s guide to preventing burnout on your team
Make sure your team members understand not only what they have to work on, but why that work matters. After all, when you put work in the hands of your team members, you want to make sure they have everything they need to succeed.
Work management software like Asana increases visibility, drives clarity, and gives your team members the tools they need to succeed. If you’re ready to get started with macromanagement, give Asana a try today.Try Asana for free