Micromanagement. The word creates emotion in almost anyone who has ever worked a day in their life. Most have been micromanaged, and none liked it. Few leaders call themselves micromanagers, and even fewer want to do it; yet they often don't realise when they are doing it.
If we have all experienced it, it must be pretty prevalent.
And it is.
Nearly every leader on earth is guilty of micromanagement at some stage.
Nine ways leaders can overcome the tendency to micromanage
- Decide you want to
Like with many things in life, especially habits (which your micromanaging probably is), you must start with a conscious decision to do something different. In this case, that something different is to let your team do their work.
- Set clear expectations
Do you know what you want people to be doing, and at least as importantly, do they know too? Before you nod your head and move on to the next point, remember this: if people don’t know what you expect, they can’t deliver it. And if they haven’t been delivering it in the past, aren’t you more likely to micromanage them? Time spent up front with clear expectations will relieve some of the pressure you feel to micromanage others.
- Define success
Related to the expectations are the measurements of success. People must know what success looks like - and it must match your picture, or again, you will feel the need to swoop in. Set benchmarks and outcomes. Once you know that they understand these, it will be easier for you to let go a bit more.
- Make it about what and why, not how
One reason you may micromanage is because you know the task well. Perhaps you have done it 100's of times. Given that, it might seem natural that you want them to follow the steps that have made you successful. While that makes sense, it is also a trap, because now you are watching people to see if they are doing it like you did it. If expectations and measures of success are set, isn’t the outcome more important than exactly how they get there? When people see the big picture, you can let them achieve the goal in a way that works better for them. Who knows, they might even find a better approach.
- Pick the right person
Your micromanagement may be rampant across all members of your team, but if you are thinking about specific tasks, the people who you entrust with that work will make a difference too. You can’t give everything to your 'chosen few' without other negative consequences, but in the moment, you can certainly think about the best person for a specific task, and when you have taken that into account, your tendency to micromanage might be reduced.
- Provide coaching, not a hand
There is a time and a place to roll up your sleeves and help out, but it likely isn’t as often as you might think. Part of the problem is that what our team members call 'micromanagement', we call 'helping'. Remember that micromanagement is determined by the other person and your intention rarely changes their perception. If you want to micromanage less; coach, encourage and teach more. Use whatever coaching approach you are familiar with and you will begin to reduce your need to micromanage.
- Nurture trust. Think about it
You micromanage less when you trust the other person, right? If you are doing the steps above you will already be nurturing trust. Extend more trust by micromanaging less and you will continue the upward spiral of trust that will truly help you alleviate your tendency to micromanage.
- Give yourself a break
It is important that you know that it is natural to micromanage. You are trying to let other people do things that you know well, that you are confident in, and that may have gotten you promoted. These may be things that you like to do and even defined you as a professional in the past. Being a subject matter expert is a seductive role to be in. Stepping back can be hard for all of these reasons, and so while you must work to micromanage less, you can realise that you aren’t the only one working on this.
- Let go
One of the biggest reasons people micromanage is that they want to be in control. The more people you lead, the less realistic that is, and until you let go, your urge to micromanage will develop into a full-blown disease that keeps you and your team from succeeding. Let. It. Go!
Hopefully these ideas will help you combat your tendency to micromanage. The results will be less stress on you, more growth from your team, and likely better overall results.