Quality with a Smile – Struggle Free

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Size matters

A short while ago we have celebrated Hanukkah, and at the party in my son’s school a few girls have staged and performed the old and well-loved song Hanna Zelda. This song always reminds me of all the micro-managers (and they always remind me of Hanna Zelda).

To my delight, I have discovered a rather charming translation of this humorous song and bring it here (taken it from ETNI website; translators’ names given as Ayala, Tanya, Menachem). 

Hanna Zelda

Hanna Zelda (Ma’ase Bilviva) from the disk “The greatest holiday songs of all times performed by Zila and Ezra Dagan (Hebrew). By Thelma Eligon and Hava Frankel (lyrics); Dvora Havkin (music).

Illustration: Hanukkah

Oh Hanna Zelda, my beloved wife,
The Feast of Hanukka has come and arrived, 
And at Hanukka, my soul really aches, 
For to eat some sweet potato cakes.

Oh Rabbi Kalman, my dear old man, 
In my kitchen there’s no flour for the pan, 
My dearest husband, how do you think I can, 
Make you a latke when no flour is at hand?

So Rabbi Kalman put on his hat and coat, 
Went to the market, in his pocket put a groat, 
There he saw some flour, and he bought a sack, 
Slung it on his shoulder and to Hanna went right back.

Here Hanna Zelda, my lovely darling wife, 
Here is the flour, oh Light of my Life. 
Because at Hanukka, my heart really aches, 
For to eat, some sweet potato cakes.

Oh Rabbi Kalman, my dear old spouse, 
Working in my kitchen, all day in the house, 
In my kitchen, all day though I toil, 
How can I make a latke, without any oil?

Again Rabbi Kalman puts on his hat and coat, 
Into his pocket he puts another groat, 
Runs to the market, and quickly he buys, 
A little jar of oil, and homeward he flies.

Here Hanna Zelda , my beloved wife, 
Here is the oil, oh Light of my Life, 
Because at Hanukkah, my soul really aches, 
For some sweet, sweet latkes, (In English ‘Taty Cakes).

Oh Rabbi Kalman, My sweet old man, 
No sugar’s in my sugar bowl, do you think I can, 
Fry you a ‘taty cake, try as I might, 
When I have no sugar for your latke tonight?

Poor old Rabbi Kalman, sick and tired and sore,
Back to the market he hobbles off once more. 
Thinking about latkes, his belly really aches, 
Goes back home with sugar, for those ‘Taty Cakes.

Here Hanna Zelda – My wife, my darling dear, 
I have brought you sugar, let the latke now appear, 
Because it is Hanukkah, and my stomach aches, 
For hot and sweet latkes, (in English ‘Taty Cakes).

Oh Rabbi Kalman, my dear old man, 
Maybe tomorrow, I’ll heat the frying pan, 
I have waited for you all day long, 
How can I fry, when I’m no longer strong?

So Rabbi Kalman takes off his coat and hat,
Puts on an apron, in the pan he puts some fat. 
He kneads the dough, he kneads it so fast, 
(He who laughs longest, is he who laughs last).

Oh Hanna Zelda – morning soon will break,
Open up your eyes and see my ‘Taty Cake! 
Because at Hanukka our souls and bellies ache, 
For latkes, sweet and hot – (in English ‘Taty Cake!).

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What is the difference between micro and macro?

(That is, aside from the letter “i” in one and “a” in the other.)

The size, naturally. Only for those who do not know (and I am certain it is not you), “micro” is derived from the Greek word micros, meaning small, tiny, slight; and “macro” is derived from the Greek word macros, meaning long, large.

Have you ever asked yourselves what is the connection between the role of manager and the magnitude of responsibility of the worker?

I’m sure you have wondered more than once what the formula was to increase worker responsibility, what the determining factor was, how to distill it and make that formula work for you…

I believe such a formula exists, and it is focused on the relative sizes, on the choice between the macro and the micro. It is strongly related to the manager’s tactic, his approach to management and to the workers placed in his care.

The “micro-management” approach

The majority of managers choose the “micro-management” approach.

As you may understand, the micro-manager focuses on every detail, goes down to the finest point (or, as a great former manager of mine used to call it – dive into their root canals). 

Such managers are certain that they must know every little detail in order to be “involved”, and that all is up to them; that without their minute instruction workers would simply be incapable of making a step on their own. They think that if one controls every movement and action, every step one’s worker makes, then one is a good involved manager and nothing escapes one’s attention.

These people are usually “control freaks” (again, present company is most definitely excluded), and thus the most important thing for them is being in control. However, they mistake the concept of “management” to mean “control”.

This approach is most common among employees, that is, managers working for a company; especially those from families of several generations of employees. One of the causes this need for control developed is the fact that an employee has virtually no control over his situation: it is all placed squarely in the hands of his employer. People of this type dream, perhaps even unconsciously, of taking control into their own hands and stop their dependence. In fact, many of them become self-employed, opening a small business and working there themselves. Their most characteristic saying would be: “If you want something done right – you better do it yourself”.

Incidentally, most of the micro-managers haven’t grown into management out of love and understanding of people, but rather graduated with some degree in administration, thinking that management is just a job and everything there is to know can be learned in college, and that upon graduation they are ready to take on management office. As a result, they also feel that their placement in the hierarchy pyramid makes them more important, control being their natural right.

Combine this with the great need for control and you get managers, who are sure that in order for something to get done right, they need to personally issue the instruction, supervise every detail and every movement (and, of course, every penny). In fact, this is a grave mistake.

If you want something done right, you better do it yourself.
If you want something done right, you better do it yourself.

Illustration: micro management

Micro-management results for workers

The direct result of such interference is a magic circle of anger and frustration, on both sides.

I know (first hand) of places where workers are only allowed to rise off their seats by a bell; managers measure the minutes they spend at lunch or coffee breaks, in the bathrooms or on an urgent phone call. I know places where the CEO must sign every order beyond $5 himself. An order of a desk, a lamp, a keyboard or a box of whiteboard markers is not approved without his signature. How do you reckon the workers feel whose order spends months on his desk awaiting attention? What would their motivation level be?

The workers cease acting of their own accord. Initiative evaporates completely, for the manager must be personally involved in every little thing. Responsibility drops to zero, for by this very interference the manager takes it into his own hands. Motivation flies out the window (or the door,  for lack of windows), for there is nothing to move the worker forward: whatever for? The manager will make himself involved anyway, issuing his instructions, so unless he has – they shall do nothing at all. Workers feel as if the manager makes them very-very small, belittles them, they become… micro?

Micro-management results for manager

The micro-manager’s life is also not to be envied.

He has no time for anything: he is so busy “managing” endless small details and ensuring that everyone does what they are supposed to do exactly as he instructed…

He is frustrated and angry with the workers, for not moving without being told. A paradox? Indeed. He tells them himself not to do anything without his instruction, and then feels frustrated when they comply.

He is filled with bitterness at the workers, who show no sense of responsibility. He can only see in them what they do not do, and never fails to tell them so, which in turn creates more resistance to himself and reluctance to invest anything in their job above the barest minimum, just as much as needed to not be fired. Turnover reaches new heights, no-one stays long if they can possibly avoid it.

Illustration: a busy manager

The manager’s workload causes delay of many tasks and creates bottlenecks, which further disrupt activity down the line…

Mistrust intensifies on both sides, turning work into a never-ending, ever-growing struggle.

It is hard to describe the feelings of someone waking up in the morning and the mere thought of the struggle at work immediately drives him into frustration mode. Again. And again. Each and every day…

Is it any wonder that people feel weary all the time, ill, suffer from migraines, allergies, asthma and whatnot?

Hanna Zelda
Hanna Zelda

Nor very funny, if you think of it

Hanna Zelda from the above favorite children’s song does also micro-manage her husband. We find so amusing that she doesn’t think to give him the whole shopping list at once, but sends him to the market again and again to get each separate ingredient. However, on second thought, one would see that this is the way she appears to manage herself: she checks what she needs one thing at a time, when she gets to it, as opposed to seeing the whole task at hand. She doesn’t seem to see the whole picture but one feature at a time, as she reaches the appropriate stage. It is also quite exhausting.

If I were Rabbi Kalman, my patience would have worn thin long ago, and I surely would not end up making the cakes myself.

Alright, so you talked about micro-management. What’s the alternative?

The "macro-management" approach

Some managers choose a different way. A way of empowering the worker, instead belittling him. Let’s call it the macro-management approach, for convenience.

Entrepreneurial people, for example, are aware and accept that they may not always be great experts in any field outside their specific area of expertise, and that in order to have things done right – they need to have people who are experts in these areas tend to them.

Instead of managing every minute detail, the macro-manager trusts his workers to know their jobs, and doesn’t tell them what to do all the time. He perceives his role in supplying them with everything they need to properly do their jobs (training and tools to perform them).

He brings the vision and direction, defines the purpose and policy, leaving the workers to set the short-term goals and the best path to get there.

Like a shepherd, he places himself quietly in a spot where he can oversee the whole action at once (the macro), and only makes corrections when direction is wrong. He knows who needs more support and who needs less, and acts according to situation and person. He also knows it would be ridiculous (and quite unnecessary) to run to each sheep and point its feet in the right direction the whole day, not to mention exhausting (and quite frankly, impossible).

Letting go of singular personal control frees up his time, which he can now invest in coaching and strengthening the workers, in cooperation with each, in listening to feedback and learning from it. He doesn’t pass over mistakes, but neither does he focus on them, knowing that mistakes do not reflect on the worker, but serve as opportunities for improvement.

He supports the workers and empowers them, to increase their confidence and motivation, and he expresses his appreciation for the good results achieved.

The Lord is My Shepherd by Simon Dewey, american Mormon artist.
The Lord is My Shepherd by Simon Dewey, american Mormon artist.

Results of macro-management

As a result, the workers feel the trust placed in them, and make efforts to fulfill the expectations. The efforts results in constant improvement of their work, thus their job brings satisfaction. They see appreciation for their work and efforts, which raises their engagement and will to improve. Workers want to do a good job, they appreciate the opportunity they get to do it. Turnover drops drastically in such a situation.

In addition, manager of this type inspires other managers and supervisors around him, spreading the empowerment circle and bringing growing benefits to the whole organization, on all levels and in all areas.

So now that we have established the formula for increasing responsibility of workers, which approach would you choose? Micro or macro?

Because, if you ask me – size matters!

Picture of micro-manager: from nakedpastor Pinterest page.

Picture of the busy manager: from the article How to Contact a Busy Person at the Art of Manliness website.

Picture of Hanna Zelda and Rabbi Kalman from “Ma’ase BiLviva”, one of 5 TV specials for children with favorite holiday songs on HOT VOD Young, at their YouTube channel.

Painting by Simon Dewey, an American Mormon artist, “The Lord is my Shepherd”. I have found no website, but one may see (and buy) his art at different art sites and, say, here on Facebook.

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