Avoiding Micromanagement

Defining Micromanagement

As leaders, we like to think of ourselves as infallible, and often as the only person who has a full grasp of the work our teams do. There is, however, a fine line between being aware of the work your team is doing and being an outright nuisance to the individuals in your group. If the second half of that sentence sounds familiar, you may be a micromanager.

 

Plain English: Micromanagement is excessively controlling the individuals in one's group. This often stems from a lack of trust or faith in employees' abilities.

Ted was the manager of a moderate-sized group of 10 employees at a Web design firm. As an individual contributor, Ted had a track record of turning out incredible pages with innovative designs. Ted's employees were also gifted Web designers. However, Ted rarely gave them free reign to come up with new designs. In fact, when a group member was assigned a new project, Ted would often tell that group member how the page should look when it was completed and what steps to take to get there. Then, Ted would continually check in with the employee to make sure the project was progressing according to his plan. Ted's leadership style could only be described as micromanagement. His controlling actions affected his group negatively in several ways:

  • Because Ted was treating all of his employees the same way, he constantly had too much on his own plate. By viewing their individual projects as his responsibilities, he consistently overwhelmed himself. This affected Ted's ability to effectively lead and manage his group.

  • Ted's insistence on making all decisions and constantly correcting his employees stunted the group's natural creativity, skill, and innovation, the very qualities they were hired for.

  • Ted's micromanagement alienated his staff members. Not only did they feel they were being babied, they felt as if their boss didn't have any faith in their abilities. This bred low morale in Ted's group as the employees started sharing their negative impressions of Ted with each other.

  • Because Ted insisted on checking employees' work every step of the way, the amount of work his group completed was nowhere near the amount other groups were producing. Senior management noticed this, and it reflected badly on Ted's leadership abilities.

Ted was a micromanager. Paying too much attention to every single detail of the work being done in his group actually had an adverse effect on Ted, his employees, and the work done in his unit.

 

Caution : Micromanagement always backfires! Micromanagement is a trap that will leave a leader bogged down in a morass of details—truly an example of not seeing the forest for the trees. A leader needs to keep a more overall view of the work being done in the group or organization.

Being a Macromanager

The key to ending micromanagement lies in learning to trust the individuals in your group and knowing how to delegate tasks to them, or being a macromanager. Once you begin delegating the work, you'll find that you have more time to concentrate on higher-level leadership work, such as charting a course for your unit in the coming months and years.