Do you ever wonder if you might be a micromanager? Here are 6 surefire indications that you are, along with some strategies for overcoming them.
1. You delegate the HOW but leave out the WHAT and WHY.
If you put more emphasis on telling people HOW they should carry out a task and less emphasis on WHAT the work is and WHY it matters, you’re likely guilty.
When leaders sacrifice this information and focus on telling someone HOW to go about achieving the objective, it erodes ownership, creativity and engagement.
The WHAT clearly tells people what has to be achieved. The WHY tells people why it’s important and adds value. It connects to the company’s vision and appeals to the individual’s sense of purpose and motivation.
Strategy: Be crystal clear in communicating WHAT needs to be achieved by the work at hand and WHY it matters. Then guide a two-way conversation about HOW to go about meeting the objective.
2. You take work away from people to finish it yourself
How many times have you said, “I’ll just fix it or finish it myself?”
When leaders haven’t equipped people with the WHAT and WHY up front, they don’t have a compass to guide their choices and decisions throughout a project. In addition, what little information leaders actually do provide is limited to spotty direction on HOW to do the work and tends to center around a few pet peeves of the leader. Ironically, this is often an attempt to avoid micromanagement. In lieu of providing actionable guidance, the micromanager might say something like, “Just run with it. I trust you.”
This is inevitably a recipe for disappointment that is not realized until the eleventh hour. As a result, the micromanager gets a work product that, not surprisingly, fails to meet their un-communicated objectives. Due to time restrictions, they ultimately reclaim the work to redo themselves. Sound familiar?
When this happens, leaders have missed an opportunity to give valuable developmental feedback and team members are left feeling that their time and effort have been wasted. Additionally, they feel undervalued, underutilized and quite often, really pissed off.
Strategy: Make sure that you schedule periodic check-ins to follow up on the assignment. Stay involved as a coach throughout the entire project to keep progress on track and avoid last minute disappointments for everyone.
3. You end up doing work that should have been delegated to somebody else
Your mantra is, “ I don’t have the time to teach someone how to do it.” Or “Delegation? We tried that and it was a miserable failure.”
Many micromanagers have surmised (often as a result of their historically poor delegation practices) that it’s easier to simply not delegate at all. These leaders tend to keep tight control (aka a death grip) on assignments rather than to trust others with doing the work. As a result, they are overworked and over-committed. These leaders often develop reputations for their inability to leverage the talents of many to achieve greater results. They tend to struggle when their departments or companies experience a growth trend and need to scale up in order to support increased demand.
Strategy: Get in the habit of reviewing the tasks you spend your time on each week. Consider whether they are the most value added for someone at your level in the organization. Make a commitment to invest in the future by developing people to take on these responsibilities.
4. You nit-pick the details until it’s perfect…which it never is
You are never fully satisfied with other people’s deliverables. You have to let people know how it could have been better and you require several iterations of rework. You’re often frustrated because it’s not how you would’ve done it.
The micromanager often keeps close company with the perfectionist. The perfectionist expects a “zero error” quality standard. In some cases, “zero error” is necessary...and attainable. However, for work that has a subjective or creative nature, this standard is often an unrealistic and moving target that shifts depending on style preferences or personality. Those who control every detail of an assignment are often seen as overbearing bottlenecks who are too deep in the weeds when they should be focusing on more strategic big-picture issues.
Strategy: The most effective leaders are willing to let go of a certain percentage of having something done “perfect” or “my way” in exchange for staff engagement and morale. Those who can’t make this shift find it difficult to reward what they regard as partial-achievement and tend to burn out and frustrate their staff. Those who can let others take responsibility for the details tend to enjoy higher engagement, commitment and morale form their people. These leaders’ teams are more creative, more engaged and get better results.
By the way, if “zero errors” is an absolute requirement of the work, communicate that up front and challenge your staff to come up with a plan for ensuring this standard is met.
5. You Are Involved in Every Step of the Project
Do you find yourself making the following requests? “Make sure you copy me on all emails related to this. Invite me to all meetings about this. Run all decisions by me.”
It’s difficult to let go of the responsibility for getting the work done, especially when leaders are still ultimately accountable for the results. However, continuing to be involved in every step doesn’t free you up to take on other, more strategic work and it doesn’t do anything to develop your team. In fact, it’s incredibly demotivating to someone to have you riding shotgun at every turn.
Strategy: Assess the risks of the work as well as the experience level of the person to whom you are delegating. Based on that, determine how much you should be involved in the execution of various aspects of the work. Discuss this up front with the person who will be doing the work and agree on when you should be involved. Then get out of the way and give over ownership.
6. People flat out say that you are micromanaging
If you have a reputation for being a micromanager, chances are it’s not far from the truth. Listen to those who work closely with you and make a commitment to change your habits.
Strategy: When someone trusts you enough to go out on a limb and give you feedback on how your manage style affects them, it is a gift. Be open to accepting it gracefully. Ask people, “What are one or two things that if I did differently, would make working together even better and more productive for both of us?”
The good news is that with some effort and a few tweaks on your part, you will see a positive shift in your leadership impact. You will make work more enjoyable and productive for both you and your team!
Shannon McGhee is a coach at EngagedLeadership