Is there a magic number of direct reports at which your leadership style is altered? Maybe. Though your span of control will also affect how much one on one time you have with employees, as well as whether they’re called direct or indirect reports, one thing that is noticeable is what happens when you lead 3 or more people.
The Team Dynamics Change
Like it or not, those who work with you will likely talk about how you lead and how you operate. When you have 1 direct report there is no one at the office for them to really share things with about you. When you have two, one doesn’t know if you are closer with them or the other person, so talking or sharing might be squashed. When there are 3, bonds form between at least two and there is also potential for more brainstorming, more mutiny (yep!), and more accountability for your behavior from the team you have the privilege of leading.
They May End Up Being Right
There is an old saying that if someone calls you a horse’s “petutie”, you can dismiss it, but if TWO people call you that, you might begin looking for a tail and if THREE call you that, it’s time to go saddle shopping. Well, when you lead three people, they might all begin to give you feedback and if you hear the same feedback, good or bad, from all three, then they might just be right and it might be time to start looking around for some solutions.
Forced Follow Up
No matter how good you are at delegation or follow through, there is only so much memory the brain can hold. With one team member you can safely say that anything you delegate went to that one person. With two, it’s a little more challenging, but with three there is a forced follow up that must occur for your success. With this size of a team, you are now forced to schedule follow up meetings, keep detailed records, and paying attention to whom you assigned what task and does it align with his or her skill. If not, you’ll be spending the majority of your time managing chaos rather than exercising Contagious Leadership of those invaluable team members.
Monica Wofford, MBA, CSP, is an international speaker, trainer, and author who helps managers who were promoted, actually become prepared to lead.