Sukanto Tanoto, the Indonesian-based founder and chairman of the $15 billion RGE Group of corporations, has always leveraged a strong hands-on management style to the benefit of his companies, employees, and customers. His “management by walking around” practice, through which he has regularly visited the plantations that produce his companies’ wood pulp and other raw materials, has become well-known among his staff. He also provides feedback in the form of criticism and praise, insisting on managerial accountability to meet appropriate quotas and benchmarks.
During his visits, Mr. Tanoto goes deep into the lands of the estates to engage in in-depth discussions with workers and managers about production. A wide range of articles has appeared describing the benefits of, for instance, franchise owners in the United States similarly “getting out into the field” to sample products themselves, talking to front-line staff, and viewing firsthand the conditions that their own customers experience when dealing with their companies.
This style of hands-on management has received a good deal of praise among business experts and writers on entrepreneurship. One publication recently noted that an appropriate level of hands-on management can foster increased communication and productivity, as well as improve overall morale. In contrast with the type of micromanagement that can easily stifle individual and corporate creativity and innovation, a hands-on management style can open up new avenues of communication between staff and the executive tier. Employees never need to be afraid to discuss issues of importance with a confident and participatory manager, who typically welcomes new ideas and does not hesitate to make his opinion known. These managers genuinely welcome insights that will assist them in getting the job done better or more efficiently.
Additionally, hands-on managers increase the level of professional knowledge within their organizations by ensuring that their employees experience numerous opportunities for learning and growth. These managers understand that a broad knowledge base within a company makes for increased opportunities to develop profitable projects, and they allow employees to learn from their own mistakes as a means of further growth.
Under a hands-on manager, productivity is typically high due to the fact that these executives know how to provide their staff with the bigger picture of why their tasks are important, and because they have a bird’s-eye view of production flow. In contrast to a micromanager, these hands-on managers don’t waste their time double-checking employees’ daily work themselves. Rather, they give their employees the tools and guidance they need in order to be successful. In addition, they provide tasks that are achievable yet challenging, and reward high standards of performance, thus keeping morale high.