How to Manage Employees At Varied Levels of Experience By Bob Norton


There are far too many texts and systems on management and I do not want to create another.  However, there is a simple and effective system I use that leverages many of these wonderful systems that can be anywhere from fantastic to disastrous in a particular situation.  In every case some thought must be given to which technique is appropriate for each special circumstance and individual.

A simple, yet very effective, model for people management uses the following combination of well know management styles by selecting the appropriate method for each individual.  This is an easy model to understand and implement and adjusts the management style to each individual’s specific abilities and limitations.  In general you are going to work very closely (micromanage) with anyone when they are first hired to help determine where they are on this scale and then move down the scale until you reach their current ability to perform.  Initial micromanagement will also allow the defining of parameters for working together and understanding each other’s styles and needs.  Don’t forget there is always a responsibility to manage your boss as well, and the boss gets to define that style.


Appropriate For

 Micromanagement (MM)(Also appropriate for a while for new relationships to get up to speed on each others strengths, weaknesses and style)



Management By Objective (MBO)

(possibly supervisors)

Management By Exception (MBE)

Experienced Executives
Leadership Business Managers, CEOs, GM, Managing Directors

Micromanagement is constantly looking over someone’s shoulder, this can be minute to minute or hour-to-hour, but is typical in situations where employees are new (high turnover), low skilled or simple not well motivated.  For example in a telemarketing operation callers are monitored very closely using physical supervisor presence and/or much electronic monitoring to ensure work is carried out properly and with sufficient effort. I believe is it completely appropriate to micromanage all new employees for some period of time until you understand their abilities and limitations and they understand what to expect from you as well.

Management by Objective means you can lay out goals and trust that the employee has all the necessary skills and experience to perform THAT TASK without outside help or resources. This could be daily, weekly or even monthly goals depending on the industry, task and other factors, but typically any good manager should be able to go a week or more without needing help from their superior. This can be easily done with repetitive work, especially when it is event drive by outside factors. i.e. a car wash attendant can be managed this way with little training because the cars keep coming and the job is relatively simple. 

Management By Exception is when not only can you trust the employee to carry out the task, but you can also trust them to understand when they are outside their own abilities and experience and come back to you for additional help and resources.  This really must be earned and is rare without lots of management experience, high confidence and ability.  There is also the supposition here that the person has the experience and skills to identify opportunities that might come out which were outside the scope of their objective. In other words this employee will seek out and find new opportunities to help the company which were not part of their objectives. In this “mode of management” you may be meeting with the employee once a month to review progress.  Only 5% of people will ever achieve this level of expertise and these people are the most valuable in your organization because they have leverage and can cause resources to be used in such a way as to generate profits.

Leadership is the next level where a person is ready to successfully start and/or run an entire business and does not need to be managed at all. By this I, of course, do not mean running a simple sub shop or dry cleaning service, but a complex organization where multiple departments, level and/or disciplines must be used to deliver value to customers.  This has a large set of skills which could fill a book and most people will jump in before they are ready, but that is how we learn too. Unfortunately it is easy to find people who consider themselves executives, but are not able to perform at this level for many reasons, which might include a poor history of managers, simple jobs with support systems which never required this or even corporate structures (which you and they may not have in a new position) that did not require this level of performance. Today many organizations have frozen growth because they have people without the correct level of ability in positions of responsibility. Often this is even the owner, board of directors or CEO, who can not begin to let go and delegate to more senior people who can be trusted with key tasks.  As organizations grow it is easy to have key positions filled by people who limit growth.  Therefore replacement of some people is inevitable as an organization grows it must shed some skin because few people can keep up with a fast growing organization completely.  It can take decades to develop all these skills and a company can go through fast growth spurts. Some larger organizations spend a fortune on organizational development (OD) to ensure this does not happen. This is valuable but often not necessary until a company is very large to reach optimum performance.  Any company under $1 billion in revenue should be able to have its CEO select and replace the senior staff appropriately. If this is done right then that senior staff will be able to do it on the next level down.