Spotting and Curbing Micromanagement

If you think you may be a micromanager, or you simply want to know how to avoid becoming one, here are some clues to watch for:

  • Twenty questions.  
    You assign a project to a group member. Every evening on your way out the door, you stop by that individual's cubicle and quiz him mercilessly on the progress of the project.

  • The right way.  
    You continually check up on the work the individuals in your group are doing because you're convinced they'll botch the job. You feel constantly obligated to enlighten your employees with the correct way to do something.

  • Clock watching.  
    You keep track of what time each employee arrives for work and leaves, not to mention timing their lunch breaks.

  • My way.  
    You rarely ask group members for their opinions in meetings. Can you even remember the last time a group member was responsible for a new process in your department?

  • The weight of the world.  
    You feel as if you are alone at the helm of a group of children. Who are these people and how did you get stuck with such incompetence? Why don't they think more like you?

 

Tip: Sure, micromanagers pay too much attention to the details. But that doesn't mean that it is wrong or bad for a leader to be aware of the details of the work being done in the group. But when the leader's primary focus shifts from the big picture to the details, it can be troublesome

Curbing Micromanagement

So, you're a confirmed micromanager. How do you change your micromanaging ways and turn your department around at the same time? To end your tendency to micromanage, try some of the following methods.

Distance from Details

It will be hard at first, but to curb micromanagement you must ease yourself away from the details you've been focusing on so closely. Remember, you cannot do everything yourself. You are a manager, a leader, not a team member. Your skills to delegate and manage others must be your prime focus now, even if you are incredibly experienced at the type of work the people in your group are doing.

Establish Trust

If you're in the habit of checking up on each of your employees every day and correcting their natural work habits or tendencies, you need to learn to leave them alone. If you do this too much, they may start ignoring their natural business instincts and just think about what you would do in that situation. This stunts the development of an employee's own problem-solving abilities and will make creativity a rare commodity in your group. To continue the preceding example, once Ted realized he was a micromanager, he swiftly set about changing his ways. To establish trust, he limited the checks of his staff's progress to weekly design meetings in which each employee reported on his or her progress and new proposals for projects. This allowed the individuals to start showcasing and developing their talent. The meetings also encouraged healthy, competitive debate between the staff members and with Ted.

Mistakes Happen

Surely, in your years of experience, you've made a mistake. Instead of damaging your career, it is more likely that the mistakes have served as some of your best lessons. Mistakes are invaluable teaching tools that are often more memorable than successes. You must allow your employees to make mistakes as well. This will give your employees their own experiences with right and wrong and will pay off in their future performance, much like your mistakes did for you.

 

Tip: Mistakes can actually give a leader the chance to step in and help an individual who may have been struggling with his or her work. Whereas a micromanager is viewed as controlling by constantly correcting, a manager who waits until an employee makes a mistake is viewed as a coach, stepping in to help only when an employee needs it.

Give Others Confidence

One characteristic all micromanagers share is the belief that they can do any job better than their employees can. This has a crippling effect on the employees' confidence. Projecting confidence is an extremely important part of the development and success of individuals and the team as a whole.

Once Ted witnessed the resourcefulness of his staff in his weekly meetings, he set about building their confidence by complimenting them regularly, asking their opinions on decisions affecting the business unit, and saying things like, "That's a great idea. It never even occurred to me. Thanks."