How Does A Manager Manage?

November 15, 2018

The easy part of management is the title. The difficult part of management is the actual activity of managing. Small business and SME owners automatically become managers whether they want to or not. Others become managers through promotion.

No Managerial Experience

Frequently when an owner starts a business, he or she is the only person working in the business. As the business begins to grow and employees are hired, the owner’s management experience may be very limited and from a different environment. Until employees were hired, the need to manage does not exist. Although the owner might have expertise in the technical aspects of the business, this does not mean that managerial experience has been gained. Now comes the task of on-the-job learning.

Likewise, employees who get promoted into managerial positions may have little or no experience other than what their primary job functions were. Perhaps, they got promoted because of seniority, a manager left creating an open position, or the business grew to the point that the owner could no longer effectively manage all employees. Regardless of the reason, here comes on-the-job learning again.

Approaches to Managing

There are two distinct approaches to managing: hands-on and hands-off.

(1) Hands-on management can be thought of as micro managing. Managers with this approach get involved in everything that occurs within their area of responsibility. They want to know about every detail and want to be involved in every decision. They look over everyone’s shoulder. All of the authority rests with this one person. Managers with this approach decide on working conditions, approve vacations, decide what responsibilities each employee has, and generally set the tone of every workday. They might even decide about social events and expect everyone to attend.

This autocratic approach can certainly produce positive results for a business. Goals are met, and employees either get “on board” or get out when they no longer can handle the situation. Sometimes, of course, it is not the employee’s choice to stay or leave. The manager makes that decision for them.

One obvious concern with this type of management is the lack of overall experience that other employees gain. No one except the manager participates in any of the decision-making processes. If and when the manager leaves or is not present, a vacuum is formed. Decision-making comes to halt and no one is available, if necessary, to fill the void. No one is groomed to step in for the absent manager.

(2) Hands-off management is at the other end of the spectrum. Employees are given a wide-range of latitude in performing their individual jobs. They know what is expected of them and are judged on their performance. What matters is if they got the job done rather than how they did the job. They have objectives to meet, and the manager gets involved only when those objectives are not met, problems occur, or major decisions have to be made. 

Employees working in this environment have a sufficient amount of independence. They come to work, do their jobs, and get rewarded if they perform in a satisfactory manner and meet pre-established objectives.


Every manager has his or her own way of managing that can range from one end of the spectrum to the other or somewhere in the middle. Regardless of the management philosophy that one adheres to, mentoring is an important aspect of a business’ future and growth. 

Inexperienced employees must be mentored, so they can grow professionally within the business and be ready to accept higher levels of responsibility when called upon. Employees come and go at any business and small businesses and SMEs are no exception. Therefore, owners need to be prepared when key managers leave. They must nurture and encourage employees to learn regardless of position.

It is through mentoring and the back and forth dialogue that solidifies a particular style that a new manager will implement as his or her own style. While many small businesses and SMEs lack a depth of management talent, mentoring is a way to build that talent from within. 

Which Approach Is The Right Approach?

There is no right way or wrong way to manage. Each approach will have advantages and disadvantages. It is up to each manager to manage in a way that best fits his or her personality and company philosophy. What is of utmost importance is that small businesses and SMEs prepare talented employees to one day be prepared to become managers and accept higher levels of responsibility.