Sometimes I hold off on hands-off management


At the age of 24 I became the Head of Online Marketing at Experian and a manager for the first time.

Looking back at this early stage in my career, I probably wasn’t a very good manager. But in my defence, without training or experience, being a manager was always going to be tough. Frankly, it’s still something I’m working to improve.

Part of the problem was that I was terrified to let go of control. All of a sudden what my team was up to was my responsibility, so I made it my job to tell them what they should be doing and regularly chase for tasks.

I know now it’s a common “new manager problem”, but at the time it felt like that was what being a manager was all about.

This management style was absolutely exhausting. Not just for me, but for the people on my team. Fear of failure formed the basis of my management technique, and it was causing my team to focus on avoid mistakes, rather than being brave and getting results.


I quickly realised I had to change. Luckily, I had great manager at the time, who was basically doing all the things I wasn’t, and was happy to give advice. I also booked some courses on management philosophy to swat up on different approaches.

One of the first things I learned was to let go and encourage my team to manage themselves. The results were amazing, not just for the company, but for the team as a whole. They were more motivated, more confident, and consistently overshot company targets. Think the managerial equivalent of a before / after weight-loss ad.

But it’s not always so straightforward.

Fast-forward almost 20 years and I had founded Motivii, a startup that provides feedback & insight for managers and their teams.

I was surprised to find my hands-off style didn’t work when managing millennials for the first time. Rather than take a task and run with it, they wanted frequent guidance. That’s completely fine, I had just forgotten it was in my job description.

Here’s the thing. Management style has a lot to do with the experience of your team. More experience = less hand-holding as a rule of thumb. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re never there as a manager — just that the conversations you have shift from objective management to longer term planning and generally making sure everyone’s OK.

I’m going to pull out a theory here to help explain, bear with me… Situational Leadership outlines how any manager’s leadership style should change dependent on the experience level of the people in the team. Simply put, everyone’s different, so each person in your team will probably be motivated by totally different things.

Whether you’re a new manager or you’ve been a manager for a while, take a moment to think about how you can better engage with and support your team outside of development conversations & reviews.

But most importantly, get to know your team.

By Eamon Tuhami, founder & CEO at Motivii

This was originally posted in our online publication Manager Real Talk

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