“If I want it done right, I’ll do it myself, I trust you, but things around here are my way or the highway,” we have all heard and maybe said these comments. These statements ring true and are the mantra of a micromanager.
Where does the line between being detail-oriented or an obsessive manager lie? Or between being overly controlling or sufficiently constructive? Control is the opposite of trust and micromanaging messages to team members that you don’t trust them to do their jobs. Micromanaging prevents your team’s initiative to the point where they stop taking responsibility because they know you’re going to step in and take charge.
As the business leader or the manager, are you the bottleneck? Do all decisions or approvals have to go through you? Are your employees constantly waiting on you before they can respond to your customers? Do you take back delegated work before it’s finished or ready for review? By making daily processes completely dependent upon one person, your employees are stifled and can’t fully develop their potential. Also, while you’re jumping into projects, you lose valuable time you should be spending looking ahead, working on the big picture items needed to fuel growth
One of the greatest misunderstandings in leadership and coaching is the term micromanaging. Most leaders never want to be thought of as a micromanager; it could be considered an insult or weakness of any manager.
Micromanagement is essentially watching or making employees feel that every move is being watched. Some of the more extreme activities associated with micromanagement include excessive attention to detail, planning tasks to minutiae, and obsessively tracking the time employees spend at their desks, on their breaks, etc. While this may seem to some like the work managers should be doing, these behaviors are, in fact, detrimental and take managers’ focus away from the bigger picture.
A good manager who is concerned with details is not necessarily a micromanager. Details matter, and good leaders use micro-indicators to signal more significant problems or impending disasters. There is nothing wrong with being detail-oriented, especially when analyzing critical reports, reviewing accidents, and compiling a budget. There is a big difference between micromanagement and monitoring, and every important task should have a monitoring plan to ensure success.
Be committed to the strategy and flexible with approaches. Create an atmosphere of open communications by encouraging employees to speak up and ensuring that they are heard. Value their opinions and judgment even if you disagree. A trusting environment starts at the top. Mistrust is contagious and tumbles quickly down through the hierarchy.
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 job. 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. 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 a 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 program that provides for 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.
Micromanaging and leadership are often confused because, from the surface, the activities and the leader’s involvement look very similar. The key difference lies in the purpose of these activities. The critical difference is the leader’s intent and the desired goals of their actions. Both require the leader’s involvement—setting clear expectations, having well-defined activity management, accountability, and a huge time commitment from the leader and the employees.
Leaders set expectations to ensure a complete understanding of what is expected from each employee to maximize productivity and limit confusion. In contrast, a micromanager does this with the intent to set boundaries and rules.
Leaders show commitment to the team by holding everyone accountable; on the other hand, micromanagers use accountability to ensure employees earn their paychecks (often focusing on a single employee versus the team).
Leaders manage activities to ensure employees are on the right track and in the best position to succeed, and a micromanager uses the activities to justify effort or discipline.
Overall, coaching and leading intend to develop and prepare employees to succeed using the leader’s knowledge and experience to guide them, not justify actions.
Remember that there are no bad employees, only discouraged employees. And there are no bad managers or leaders, only unskilled and overwhelmed ones. Managers need to learn how to inspire their team toward a goal, not dictate actions to be a leader. So, how should you manage your Superstars? Tell them what you need, give them your support, and then get out of their way and let them do their jobs. You’ve Hired Superstars! It’s Time to Stop Micromanaging Them!