Ask any group about the skills of the best managers and leaders, and they will never include micromanagement on the list. I know, because I’ve asked hundreds of people that question. And yet, everyone knows what micromanagement is and has experienced it and its negative consequences. Given that, if we want to be a more effective leader, we must fight the urge and habit, and begin resisting micromanagement.
Let’s start with two important facts:
- Micromanagement is in the eye of the beholder. You can manage two people exactly the same way, and while one will appreciate your input and help, another will feel stifled and micromanaged. This means two things:
- We need to be more flexible in our approach (and understand the needs of individuals).
- Just because we don’t think we aren’t micromanaging, doesn’t mean that we aren’t.
- Some people aren’t meeting the needed performance standards. Sometimes managers justify their micromanaging tendencies because “people aren’t doing their job.” While that may be true, there are other ways to help people improve performance that don’t involve micromanagement. In fact – I have several suggestions I will share below.
So Now What?
Now that we understand these underlying facts, we can get to what we can do to improve morale, ownership, and productivity by resisting micromanagement.
Focus on the what more than the how. You likely know the task well or have a clear picture of how you would do the task. Often, our focus on “how to do it” is where we begin micromanaging. We want to make sure they do it “our” (the right) way, so we check in to make sure that is how they are doing it. When we know that people are clear on the what – the desired outcomes for the task or project – we have a better chance of relaxing just a bit and resisting the urge to micromanage on the how.
Recognize the need for others to learn. Remember when you were learning. You wanted support and a safety net, but not someone breathing down your neck, right? Often, we micromanage when people are doing things for the first time or two. Give people the chance to learn – which means giving them a break, and perhaps a bit more time. Set the clear goal and help them build a plan, then let them learn.
Create clearer expectations and check ins. Setting expectations about the what should include the timeline, the plan, and your role in the process. If you have agreed to a plan that includes some check-ins with you, you will likely feel better, and you will manage the perception of others too. When they care about the outcome, they will more likely see your check ins as support rather than micromanagement.
Ask for feedback. Since micromanagement is in the eye of the beholder, ask people how you are doing. Make sure they are getting the support they want without overwhelming them. If you feel they need more of your time than they do, you have a chance to recalibrate expectations and improve performance.
Let go. Perhaps the biggest reason we micromanage is our ego and our need for control. We can’t talk about micromanagement without acknowledging this. Become more self-aware and allow yourself to let go of that need for power and control. The other ideas here will help.
Micromanage less and create greater ownership and development opportunities for your team with these tips.
If you want to create more effective and loyal employees, if you want to develop your future leaders, and resist micromanagement, join me for our foundational From Manager to Remarkable Leader learning experience. You can learn more and register here.