2016-07-14

Avoid micromanaging

Mind Tools Ltd.

Help Team Members Excel ... on Their OwnYou've assigned important tasks to talented employees and given them a deadline. Do you let them do their work and simply touch base at pre-defined points along the way? Or do you keep dropping by their desks and sending e-mails to check their progress? If it's the latter, you might be a micromanager.


If you're the harried worker trying to make a deadline with a boss hovering at your shoulder, you might have on your hands a micromanager, someone who just can't let go of tiny details.


Micromanagers take perfectly positive attributes — an attention to detail and a hands-on attitude — to the extreme. Either because they're control obsessed or because they feel driven to push everyone around them to excess, micromanagers risk disempowering their colleagues, ruining their confidence, hurting their performance, and frustrating them to the point of quitting.


You can, however, identify these overzealous tendencies in yourself and get rid of them before they do more damage. And if you work for a micromanager, there are strategies you can use to convince them to accept your independence.


How do you spot the signs of micromanagement? Where is the line between being an involved manager and an over-involved manager who drives the team mad?


Signs of micromanagementYou may be a micromanager, or have one on your hands. In general, micromanagers:

  • resist delegating
  • immerse themselves in overseeing the projects of others
  • correct tiny details instead of looking at the big picture
  • take back delegated work before it is finished if they find any mistakes
  • discourage others from making decisions without consulting them


What is wrong with micromanagingIf you're getting results by micromanaging and keeping your nose in everyone's business, why not carry on? Micromanagers often affirm the value of their approach with a simple experiment: They give an employee an assignment and then disappear until the deadline. Is this employee likely to excel when given free rein? The employee may be able to excel if they have exceptional confidence in his abilities.


Under micromanagement, however, most workers become timid and tentative and possibly even paralyzed. Such workers might believe that no matter what they do, it won't be good enough. Then one of two things will happen: Either they will ask the manager for guidance before the deadline, or they will forge ahead but come up with an inadequate result. Either way, the micromanager will interpret the result of the experiment as proof that without constant intervention, their people will flounder or fail.


But do these results justify the value of micromanagement, or negate it? Truly effective managers set up those around them to succeed. Micromanagers prevent employees from making and taking responsibility for their own decisions. But it's precisely the process of making decisions and living with the consequences that helps people to grow and improve.


Good managers empower their employees to do well by giving opportunities to excel. Bad managers disempower their employees by hoarding those opportunities. And disempowered employees are ineffective ones who require a lot of time and energy from their supervisor.


It's that time and energy, multiplied across a whole team of timid, cowed workers that amount to a serious and self-defeating drain on a manager's time. It's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with analysis, planning, communication with other teams, and the other big-picture tasks of managing when you are sweating the details of the next sales presentation.


Escaping micromanagementOnce you've identified micromanagerial tendencies and seen why they're bad, what can you do if you know you're exhibiting such behaviours or are being subjected to them by a supervisor?


From the micromanager's perspective, the best way to build healthier relationships with employees may be the most direct: Talk to them. It may take several conversations to convince them that you're serious about change. Getting frank feedback from employees is the hard part. Then follow the advice of executive coach Marshall Goldsmith in his book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: Apologize and change. Give your employees the leeway and encouragement to succeed. Focus first on the ones with the most potential and learn to delegate effectively to them.


If you are the micromanaged, things are a bit more complicated. You're likely being held back in your professional development and not making the progress in your career you could be if you enjoyed workplace independence. However, you can improve the situation:

  • Help your boss delegate to you more effectively by prompting them to give you all the information you will need up front and to set interim review points along the way.
  • Volunteer to take on work or projects you're confident you'll be good at. This will start to increase their confidence in you and their delegation skills.
  • Make sure you communicate progress to your boss regularly to discourage their seeking information just because they haven't had any for a while.
  • Concentrate on helping your boss to change one micromanagement habit at a time. Remember they're only human and are allowed to make mistakes.

 


Key pointsMicromanagers not only restrict the ability of their people to develop and grow but, because everything has to go through them, they also limit what their team can achieve.


When bosses are reluctant to delegate, focus on details rather than the big picture, and discourage their staff from taking the initiative, there’s every chance that they're sliding into micromanagement.


The first step in avoiding the micromanagement trap, or getting out of it once you’re there, is to recognize the danger signs by talking to your staff or boss. If you’re micromanaged, help your boss see there is a better way of working. And if you are a micromanager, work hard on those delegation skills and learn to trust your staff to develop and deliver.


Reproduced with the permission of Mind Tools Ltd.© all rights reserved.http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMM_90.htm

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