Though leadership is always my preferred topic, sometimes we need to get into the management weeds. The blocking and tackling that is so necessary for success in leadership is sometimes overlooked for more of the sexy, fun stuff.
It’s important, though. And likely no management concept is more important — or more ignored — than that of appropriate Span of Control.
What’s the perfect number of direct reports? People who report directly to you? How many employees should any one manager have working for them; does it matter what “kinds” of employees?
I get these questions a lot, so thought I’d help shed some light.
This challenge, of course, refers to what’s called Span of Control, and though there are always “unique” circumstances that defeat any rule, there are some decent historical guidelines.
Span of Control isn’t simply dependent on each individual; it’s a basic limitation of all managers as it describes only their direct reports. Though a manager can effectively “control” any number of people if there are enough levels in between, not so when it comes to direct reports. That capacity is finite.
…and here’s the deal: don’t give me this song and dance bullshit about how this doesn’t apply to you, or that you’re somehow different. It does, and you ain’t.
Appropriate span of control refers to those you can effectively and successfully manage, not just have on an org chart. If you have 10+ direct reports, they simply cannot be receiving the individual attention that each one needs. There aren’t enough minutes in the day.
I may not be a math major, but I do own a calculator.
Be Brazen, and remember that Grace and Accountability can coexist.