Of all the ways a manager can drive her staff crazy, one of the worst is to demand a lot while providing few means to achieve results. It’s sort of like Pharaoh telling the Jews to make bricks without straw, but not quite that bad.
Even so, accountability without control sucks.
Peter Drucker, often referred to as the father of modern management is quoted as saying at least one thing that alludes to this principle beautifully:
“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”
What great managers do
Great managers, who are also effective managers, give their employees direction, tools, and support, and then they get the heck out of the way.
When you’ve hired the right people, that’s more than enough.
Lack of control is a common workplace stressor
According to the American Institute of Stress, “increased levels of job stress, as assessed by the perception of having little control but lots of demands, have been demonstrated to be associated with increased rates of heart attack, hypertension and other disorders.”
Bad management can literally make people sick. This brings to mind another Drucker quote:
“Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.”
Gee that man was smart. And apparently he was a proponent of servant leadership.
Why do I say that? Because managers who view themselves as responsible for employee development (i.e., servant leaders) won’t balk at delegating power and control when it makes sense to do so. And for the record, whenever you’ve hired a competent person to do a job, it’s generally good to leave him to it.
Duplication of efforts is a big time waster
Personally, I’m not big on duplicating efforts, and I’ve told more than one boss:
“If you assume responsibility for a task. I won’t.”
That’s not a statement of defiance, folks. That’s a statement of fact. There’s no reason for you and me to do the same thing, so if you’re going to be responsible for X—
meaning you assume all control for how X gets done—I’m going to mentally check out and set my sights on something else to manage.
And that’s why accountability without control doesn’t work. Either an employee will make herself sick trying to produce bricks without straw, or she’ll disengage from the process entirely, only providing as much input as necessary to appear to be doing the job the manager is clearly so enamored of.