I was leading an exercise with my infantry platoon in the US Army, under supervision and review of our battalion commander, a Lt. Colonel. Everything was going great and my platoon executed the task, exceeding time and requirements.

The Colonel gave a nod of satisfaction and then said, “LT, let’s run it again …”.

I thought, OK, no sweat, we can do this all day.

When we commenced the next run, the Colonel pulled out his pistol, pointed it at me and said “Bang, you’re dead”

I stopped for a moment, and hesitated …

My platoon stopped. They hesitated and started looking around …

The clock continued to tick and my men just started meandering around like turkeys in the rain.

Finally, after a couple agonizing minutes, the exercise mercilessly ended

Ours assessment? Failure

The Colonel went on to explain that the unit wasn’t trained to perform the exercise because they couldn’t perform it on their own. They could only execute it, if I were there supervising (or one could say micro-managing) every move, no matter how small. This is great when it works, but in a combat type situation, leadership changes can happen quickly, if not unexpectedly. So “training” your unit to perform only under direct supervision, is akin to not training them at all, when one bullet can exploit a critical failure point.

I learned some lessons that day that to be trained, the unit must be able to perform the task independently and without supervision

Lead, follow, then get the Hell out of the way

My role as a leader was to lead by setting expectations and managing training

Then follow their progress and improvement

but then to let the unit execute the mission independently in training, so they could execute it well under evaluation and even combat, even if I wasn’t there or said another way, get the Hell out of the way

Summary

A leader’s role should be primarily in setting expectation and defining the higher level mission (aka goals, epic) and then managing, funding, allocating training to ensure a team can execute those goals independently.

If you don’t have an independent team, you don’t have a sustainable team. No matter what they are doing successfully, they will ultimately fail if they depend on one person. The one person will get promoted, quit, get sick etc. and when they do, that person will have to be replaced with another micro-manager who will do things totally differently, creating a lot of disruption and downtime in the process. That is why “No bosses” is a pillar of our Work naked values

If you have someone micromanaging one of your team, by definition the team is not trained and they will fail, or do nothing, if the manager is ever absent. Some managers take this as a sign of pride because they feel it makes them important, or even indispensable. In reality, it makes them useless to an organization, especially if that organization needs to manage remote teams that can’t be supervised every second. Identifying and retraining (or barring that, eliminating) micromanagers, is one of the biggest steps you can make to converting your team to remote and allowing them to Work naked.