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How To Stop Micromanagement

24 Jun 2022

Ditching micromanagement is imperative for any manager who wants to ensure that their teams function well. Here’s how to do it!

If you are the kind of boss (1) who is overly focused on minor details, (2) who wants to be informed about even the tiniest development of any assignment, and (3) who is rarely satisfied with your employees’ performance, chances are you are a micromanager. 

As we explored in a previous blog post, micromanagement shouldn’t be taken lightly. It has profoundly negative effects on every aspect of the overall business performance such as:

  • Each individual employee is resentful about the stifling and distrustful environment micromanagement creates.
  • Micromanaging bosses are overworked, not to mention increasingly incapable of seeing the big picture.
  • The entire business suffers and may even collapse when competing against more innovative and productive enterprises with happier employees.

All of this goes to show that micromanagement should be stamped out as early as it is discovered. While major companies can afford leadership seminars and impressive HR departments who can help spot and mitigate micromanagement, in most cases individual leaders and managers have to discover and solve the problem themselves. Only that way one can permanently kick the micromanagement habit.

In this blog post I’ll highlight ways and approaches which micromanaging bosses and leaders can use to reflect on their micromanagement problem and work towards solving it.

Escaping Micromanagement

As outlined before, to really beat the desire to micromanage, the drive has to come from an internal realization and a genuine self-improvement process. An externally mandated and controlled eradication of micromanagement can work, but it is less likely to have the same sustainable, long-term effect.

In other words, while an external mediator or professional will prevent the worst manifestations of micromanagement as well as its consequences, without fixing the underlying causes that drive particular people to micromanage, any success will be temporary.

Here are the key steps that have to be taken by anyone trying to rid themselves of the micromanagement bug.

Self-reflection

Understanding why you micromanage is the most important precondition to effectively eradicate it. For example, the propensity to micromanage may arise from some deep down insecurity that forces a manager to overcompensate an alleged lack of knowledge or expertise in a certain field.

Other managers may be driven not by faltering self confidence, but by their lack of trust in their employees. This is a particularly bad excuse for micromanagement as it fosters an unpleasant working environment and destroys employee-management relationships.

Perfectionism is another major causal factor. Perfection is a subjective term. Spending excessive time and energy chasing an objectively unachievable result, particularly at the expense of employees’ initiative and freedom, is a bad way to manage.

Other reasons may include a savior complex that pushes a manager to help even if that help is not required, fear of losing control, or excessive hubris. 

Once you’ve understood the causes to your urge to micromanage, all the next steps can be adapted for the best return.

Ask your employees views on micromanagement

By the time you’ve realized that you have a micromanagement problem, chances are it’s already been there a while. Understanding your subordinates’ take on your leadership approach may help a lot in understanding what works and what doesn’t.

This survey of your employees’ opinions may take place in any number of ways ranging from an open conversation to an anonymous survey carried out by a third party. If possible, I would suggest opting for as open and direct a format as possible. While it may not work in every situation, overall this will yield the best results.

The reason is that a truly successful manager will at least somewhat tailor their approach to each individual employee differently. For example, some employees may actually like a more involved managerial style, while others value trust and independence. Likewise, understanding each person’s strengths and weaknesses can help to effectively delegate tasks later.

Regardless of the management style your employees prefer, they will above all value the show of respect for their opinions and preferences this activity entails.

Understand what matters

This step involves two things. First, understand what exactly you do as a micromanaging leader. I suggest spending a day and drawing a business process map. This would include outlining the processes, their activities, and the related small tasks. For example, a single process may have three or four activities while each of these activities could contain any number of small tasks. Second, write down the name of the owner for each process, activity, and task.

Ideally, a manager should hardly appear on the task level, being primarily concerned with overseeing the entire process and its activities. For example, in a strategic planning process a manager should set the general direction, oversee the process, and provide support, guidance, or feedback, if necessary, without delving into the subtleties of actually writing, researching, and disseminating the end product.

To motivate yourself remember that your knowledge and expertise make you one of the most valuable assets a business has. Squandering all that potential is both a bad financial call (no one needs an overpaid proofreader) and a drag on growth.

Become a master delegator

Once you have understood what the most effective use of your resources would be, it’s time to let go of the things that would make economic and rational sense to be delegated to someone else. A Gallup research shows that CEOs who are great at delegating generate 33% higher revenues. Even if the benefit is smaller down the ladder, there are significant gains to be made.

To reap the most from delegation, remember to use the insights gleaned from the conversations you had with your colleagues. Delegate based on their interests, previous experience, and overall strengths and weaknesses.

As you delegate tasks, it’s important to make your expectations clear. This should include the required result, the associated deadlines, and the progress reports you’ll expect along the way. Depending on the previously discussed process-activity-task matrix, you should also make clear what your engagement throughout a particular activity or task will be. Remember to stress that reduced day-to-day management involvement shouldn’t discourage an employee from asking help, if it is necessary.

Take a step back

Bear in mind that delegation is also not a micromanagement free mechanism. For instance, a manager can fall into the trap of trying to overly control how a task is carried. Instead the managerial focus should be on providing feedback and ensuring that employees have all the necessary resources and training to get the job done themselves.

For some chronic and long-term micromanagers a slower paced step back may be better. To make the shift smoother as well as raise trust and confidence, one could consider starting off gradually. For example, give your team members accountability for some less urgent and less impactful projects to test their abilities and reduce your personal insecurities.

To make the transition easier try to set aside your own personal ambitions. Many managers became what they are by being the ones who found the best solution. If during the reflection stage you understand that this is one of the causes for your micromanaging habit, try to find ways to limit it.

Regardless of whether you take it slow or plunge in directly, regular feedback from your colleagues will help a lot in fine tuning the management style. This is particularly true, if there is some turbulence along the way to change. Likewise, your feedback and support is essential as your team adjusts to the new leadership style. This reciprocity on both sides is what lays a foundation to a trusting and healthy work environment.

Consider team adjustments after ditching micromanagement

If you make the change, but see that some of the employees are not adjusting well, consider making changes to your team or the team members’ tasks. Some employees may not feel comfortable with more responsibility and autonomy, others may flourish in the new environment. Others still may no longer like their new tasks or be incapable of carrying them out. Finally, it may even turn out that once you as a manager have let go of the mundane things there simply are not enough employees to handle the new responsibilities.

Once things have settled in the new tracks, evaluate how each team member is performing and whether there have been changes to overall team productivity. This stage may require some difficult decisions concerning rotations or lay offs. Conversely, it may lead to increased capacity, appreciation of the higher management, and an expansion of the team. 

Regardless of the situation you shouldn’t be afraid of change that leads to better outcomes for all. This will lead to a stronger, more resilient, and happier team.

Author: Lote Steina

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Life doesen't have a do-over.
Commit to it! BePrime!
Life doesen't have a do-over.
Commit to it! BePrime!