I manage a large team of people. My problem is that a couple of my managers are too detail-oriented. For instance, most of my managers listed their annual accomplishments in a couple of pages. Two of my managers, however, sent 15-page documents that I then had to read and absorb before I could complete their annual reviews. When I read their documents, I could see that there was a lot of good information and description within them. It made me feel like maybe my expectations of all my other managers are too low, but I still resented having to wade through so much content for these two particular managers. This is just one example. The bigger issue is that these two direct reports leave me wondering if their level of detail and diligence is what my other managers should be aspiring to and what I should be expecting of them. Or, is it just overkill?

Since you’re already drowning in information, the thing I’m going to do here is NOT overwhelm you with exceedingly long answers to your questions!

Three issues come to mind for me here:

  • Do your managers know what your expectations are of them? Perhaps more importantly, do YOU know what your expectations are of your managers? Until both of these questions are answered with a confident, “Yes!” you and your managers are not going to make any forward progress on this issue. So, do a deep dive and figure this out first.
  • As a corollary to point #1 written above, what is the right amount and type of information you need from your direct reports so that you can do your job and do it well? Is that determined primarily by the amount of information that you need, or by the quality of the information that you need, or both? If you know the answers to these questions, then let your DRs know it. If you don’t know the answers, then consider transforming this issue into a learning opportunity for them, where they review the demands of the task at hand and devise a standard response format for all of them to use going forward.
  • “Too detail oriented” … “wade through so much content” … “overkill” … “drowning” … These terms suggest to me that you’re feeling overloaded with tasks that are not necessarily helping you or your team accomplish your work as efficiently as you would like or might be able to do. Perhaps this situation is presenting you and your team with an opportunity to review all your work needs and procedures to see where changes and improvements can be made. Involving members of your team in conducting this review, making recommendations, and reaching decisions about what to keep, what to change, and what to drop in your collective workflow can foster team ownership and boost team buy-in over most things that you all do. As workflows become standardized, those who participated in devising them will feel compelled to follow their format.

I hope you find these life-raft ideas helpful!