One can encounter many PhD students who complain that their supervisors don’t have time to supervise them properly or that they could not be bothered until the annual progress report is due. If a PhD student mainly depends on the supervisor to bounce back ideas, then this can a tricky position. However, there may also be a scenario when a supervisor is a micro manager who wants to get an update on each attempt at a research problem. This is not conducive to a good supervising relationship and also puts unnecessary burden on the Phd or masters student. The same theme is critical in sports where over-coaching of a young player can have a detrimental effect.
Scott Burken has written an open letter to micro managers of the world where he likens managers to racehorse owners and says than only an idiot would step their horses during a race and give instructions. Burken does not stop there but mentions three main points for racehorse owners (managers):
A healthy, confident, well-adjusted manager knows their job is to do three things:
- Hire thoroughbreds, point them at the finish line, and get out of their way unless they ask for help
- Coach, teach, encourage and position ordinary horses to maximize their potential and approximate thoroughbreds in some of their work.
- Fire those who can never do the work needed without your constant involvement to make room for those who can
The points make good sense and also apply to micromanaging supervisors. Not every one has the same abilities and good managers form a good team where every one is encouraged to perform to the best of their abilities and good performers are not interfered with too much.