Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines micromanagement as the act of managing with excessive control or excessive attention to details. The use of the term “excess” in the definition itself denotes the negative connotation of micromanagement. Most, have or eventually will encounter the unwanted effects of a micromanager – that manager that tries to control how and when their employees do everything. Surveys and research studies estimate upwards of 79% of employees report they have been micromanaged at some point in their careers. Micromanagement will lead to low morale, lack of productivity and turnover. So much so that it is said to be among the top three reasons employees resign a workplace.
In honor of Super Bowl Sunday, let’s use sports to illustrate the disfunction in micromanagement. Imagine a football coach who drafts a quarterback; trains him all season long preparing him with the plays he needs to be successful and beat the competition and on game day in the middle of the game, the coach runs out to the field, grabs the football and tries to throw the ball himself to get the team to a touchdown. Is that the picture of effective leadership? As with most leadership challenges, the first step is to realize that there is behavior that needs to be changed and to understand how it negatively impacts your workplace. Below are 4 tell-tale signs that you are a micromanager.
You don’t delegate so you have more work than you can handle. If you find that you lean more towards doing everything yourself because no one else can do it, then not only are you a micromanager but you are contributing towards poor performance. As a leader it is your responsibility to hire the right employees, with the right skill sets (or help your team to develop necessary skill) to accomplish the goals of your organization. If you are so busy doing the job that your employees are supposed to be doing then you’re likely not doing the job that you were hired to do. Good leaders know which employees are ready for which responsibilities and how much oversight is needed. So, get to the business of handling your own business and don’t just do – lead.
You tell your team exactly how you want things done and don’t leave room for any other way. An overactive command-and- control style of leadership that leaves little room for individual autonomy will lead to an employee feeling as though they’re not being seen as capable, ultimately resulting in employee dissatisfaction. In fact, studies have shown that lack of autonomy at work not only leads to lack of engagement but also elevates employee stress hormones which can lead to other negative health effects. So instead of trying to control how employees accomplish the tasks you set before them; set the goals, ensure that everyone is clear on what needs to be accomplished and what the expected results are, then allow your employees to deliver those results without interfering with the process. And if you happen to encounter situations where you have some employees that are ready for more than others, then apply your situational leadership skills and adjust the level of management or supervision that is needed for each individual employee based on their capabilities and responsibilities. Lead, don’t just manage.
You always need to know what everyone is doing. Constantly needing to know what everyone is doing is often directly tied to your own insecurities in either your ability to lead your team or your team’s ability to do the job. Effectively leading and tracking your team’s progress without micromanaging requires a healthy balance. The idea isn’t to abdicate managing your employees, but instead, it’s about learning to trust that your employees are capable of doing what they are supposed to be doing without your constant hovering. While an employee who is failing to perform may call for more frequent intervention, too much control will lead to employees becoming demotivated. Establish open lines of communication where your employees proactively engage you and provide you updates instead, this will ensure a healthier and more productive workplace.
You are a bottleneck because everyone is waiting for your approval on everything. Micromanagers have a hard time trusting others to make decisions and don’t want anything to move forward without their final approval – even routine or time-sensitive matters. By making daily processes completely dependent upon your final say, your employees are stifled, completion of projects and tasks are delayed, and employees are unable to develop their full potential. If you hire the right people with the right skills your role as a leader is to enable them to contribute their unique talents to improve the business. Leaders trust their people to do what they do best and empower them to act.
“The best [leader] is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt