When a new hire joins my team, in our first one-on-one, I give them a spiel that goes something like this:
There are two kinds of managers: managers who make your job easier, and managers who make your job harder.
I strive to be the first kind of manager. That means you should let me know whenever there’s something I can do to make your job easier, or to make you more productive. It also means you should let me know whenever I slip into becoming the second kind of manager—which I do occasionally (usually when I’m bugging you for status too often).
I’m not necessarily going to be checking up on you all the time. If I’m not checking up on you, it doesn’t mean that I don’t care what you’re doing, or that your current task isn’t important. It means that I trust you to be productive. It’s your responsibility to be productive and to always be working on whatever the team’s top priority is at the moment.
If you don’t know what the team’s priorities are, you should come talk to me right away. You should also talk to me right away if you think the priorities are stupid. And you should talk to me if you can’t make progress on what’s most important.
Sometimes I have to wrangle all the details of a project to get it out the door. When I have to do that, I do. But it’s a better kind of success when the team gets a project done without me coordinating it, because we got aligned on goals and priorities first.