Think about your perfect supervisor/manager/leader for a minute. Build a mental list of the attributes that perfect person would possess and think about the words you would use to describe that person.
I don’t know what is on your list, but I’d bet the farm on what isn’t.
I’ve never met anyone who wanted a micro manager for a boss.
Yet I’ve met many who felt they had a supervisor who was a micro manager, and I’ve met many leaders who struggle with that characteristic – knowing that they don’t want to be seen as one. I also know – for the most part – people who are seen as micro managers are acting with good intentions.
It’s quite an organizational paradox.
The biggest challenge in understanding (and therefore unraveling) this paradox is to recognize there isn’t a common definition of a micro manager.
- It looks different to the manager because he/she understands his/her intentions and may not understand the unintended consequences of the actions.
- It looks different to employees because at different stages in professional development (and at different confidence levels) employees need different levels of direction.
As a leader, once you recognize this definitional and situational challenge you will set the stage to improve your skills in this area. So with that as a starting point, let me share six specific things you can do to avoid being or being seen as a micro manager.
Build a mutual agreement of success.
This is the starting point. Does your team member understand what successful completion of the task or project looks like? Do all employees know your expectations? And at least as importantly, do you believe they know? Missing this step causes problems because you want to make sure the project (and the person) is successful, and if you aren’t sure the team knows what success is (or if you keep moving the target in your mind) you naturally are going to want to check in frequently. Hmmm . . . that could be seen as micro management, right?
Provide the right training.
Does the person know how to do the job or task? If you know he/she does, isn’t it easier to let him/her go for it? When you keep stepping in to provide just-in-time training, it might feel like micro management. That is a pretty good reason to give all the skills for success from the start.
Focus on what, not how.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for any leader is that often you are asking people to do things that you know how to do very well. And likely you are proud of your performance in that area and are truly an expert in completing the task. When this is true, leaders often start thinking that success isn’t about the end result, but about doing it their way. When you can keep your focus on the successful completion of the task, it is easier to avoid stepping in too often to “help.” This is perhaps the failing leaders have who are seen as micro managers.
Remember it isn’t your job.
Repeat after me: It is their job, not yours. You grew by trying new things, and making an occasional error, right? Why would you want to rob others of that chance? Yes, I know there is something to be said for best practices, etc. But sharing a best practice is rarely seen as micro management. Want to stop micro managing? Do the steps above and then, let them do it.
Ask them what they need from you.
Because different people have different needs for support and help, why not ask people what level of support they need from you? You might need to adjust their expectations a little, but this is a great place to start. It also opens the lines of communication for the last tip . . .
Ask for ongoing feedback.
Let people know your goal isn’t to be a micro manager. Let them know your intention, and tell them you want their feedback. If you are truly open to their feedback and will make adjustments to your behavior based on it, this approach is a big step in your growth and will change people’s perceptions of you as a coach and leader immensely (and almost immediately). However, don’t ask for feedback if you don’t want it. But if you do, their feedback will help you calibrate your level of help and guidance to a successful place – not a place of micro management.
If you want to grow as a leader, and don’t want to be seen as a micro manager, these six steps will help.