The Micromanager’s Guide to Leadership

You can only be a control freak when you have weak people around you.” – Ronald Perelman

Hey, you! Yes, I am talking to you. You behind that computer or laptop screen who got on this page from Google or from some sort of Facebook friend recommendation wondering if I am writing this article about you. Yup! You’re the one I want to have a quick chat with. See… I know it’s not fair we’re all talking about you behind your back, calling you a control freak, and saying that micromanagement is what keeps you from advancing with your company or career.

I know we shouldn’t lose our motivation because of your almost tyrannical management and because of the way you obsess about every single detail we did wrong or could’ve done better. I’m sure you’re really just trying to get everything done perfectly. As it happens, I’ve been there. I totally get you and I believe you won’t change until you’re given reasons why you should and until we’ll make you see why micromanaging is bad for you, your team and your business. Once you acknowledge you want to change your micromanager ways, I’m sure your will and the few suggestions you’ll find below will make this adjustment as smooth as possible. So, let’s start from scratch..

Detail-oriented or obsessed? 12 surefire signs you’re prone to micromanagement

There’s only one thing worse for a team than being lead by a micromanager and that is being lead by a micromanager who doesn’t know he is a micromanager.

If 5 of the below sentences apply to you, then maybe you should consider reading this article further.

  • your feedback to your team or company is first and foremost centered on details and it is criticism – “but, hey, the devil is in the details” you say to yourself;
  • your main concern is always flawless execution of any project or task;
  • you have more work on your plate than you can handle because there is no one who can do it as well as you can and because there is no one else you would trust with important responsibilities;
  • you frequently assign work then take it back because it’s not getting done the way you want it done;
  • you have a curious urge to know what everyone in your team is doing at all times;
  • if you observe your management behavior for one whole day, you realise that you focus mostly on HOW people in your team or company do things and not on WHAT, WHY and with WHAT RESULTS they do things;
  • you’ve been told often that you are “quite a one-man band” or that it is amazing how much you manage to accomplish “single-handedly” and at the same time you’re not exactly part of a start-up one-man company – you actually do have a team that is hired to help you;
  • you are not keen to let team members communicate with clients or partners, especially because you think you’re doing it best and they might ruin relationships;
  • you’re in the middle of every decision your company or team has to make and as everyone in your team is waiting for your approval with every single detail and project phase, you tend to become the bottleneck of the team’s activity;
  • you often feel or catch yourself saying that “if you want something done right you have to do it yourself” or “it’s too much trouble to find someone else to do this task”;
  • you spend so much time correcting tiny details of your work or your team’s wok that you complain you have no time for looking at the big picture;
  • you discourage your team from making decisions without consulting you (even if you’re on holiday for example);
  • you find yourself immersed in projects that are actually someone else’s, someone who is paid to take care of them.

Micromanagement – trick or treat? Why is micromanagement a bad leadership habit?

Apart from all criticism, at the end of the day a micromanager is a leader who issues constant feedback about project details and who makes decisions about the most trivial of tasks that someone else is paid to take care of. At first sight, it doesn’t seem obvious why taking extra care of your company or team’s work is such a nasty habit. Therefore, let me give you 10 reasons why micromanagement is in fact counterproductive in my opinion:

  • micromanagement makes it tough for you, as a leader, to look ahead, keep an eye on the market and ensure your company’s short-term and long-term strategy is competitive;
  • as long as you get carried away in details it is really difficult for you to see the big picture and help your team  and company achieve better results;
  • you have to time and energy to spend on tasks that you are best at and add the greatest value to your company and team’s performance;
  • people love to be trusted and the only way you can build a team is through trust – strict and excessive controlsends a clear message of lack of trust for their skills and judgement and to some extent disrespect for their work;
  • your need to be involved in every single decision transforms you into a team and activity bottleneck, slows the decision-making process and team progress;
  • your overinvolvement strips all sense of ownership from your team about their assignments and actual work, prevents employees from making their own decisions and taking responsibility and learning by doing in the process;
  • on the long haul your team’s confidence in their own skills is shaken and their development is tough;
  • obsessing over employees’ and constant search for perfection cause work to be redone over and over again;
  • the fact that you are not delegating means that you are simply not leveraging your team and their skills – there are for sure abilities that they have and you don’t and areas where they are better than you;
  • micromanagement surpresses creativity and in time cuts communication with your team – you must have noticed that they prefer not asking for your feedback as they are sure where that’s going to get.

You can see that I am especially insisting on the fact that your role as a leader is not to obsess over employees’ tasks. A leader’s most important role is to lead, facilitate and orchestrate work, while your team has been employed to contribute with skills, know-how and actual work. And more importantly a leader should not stand in the way of his team.

Managing your way out of micromanagement – Let team take care of details, focus on the big picture

My personal opinion is that we’ve all been there and to some extent we still micromanage or are tempted to micromanage from time to time. However, the same goes for nose picking or other bad habits. If you’ve decided to own up to it and change this bad management behavior that is preventing you from becoming the leader you should be and that is preventing your business from growing the way it should, here are some personal suggestions on how you can almost instantly get from being detail obsessed to being big picture focused.

  1. Start with why – Understand why you are micromanaging it in the first place – detail orientation, emotional or professional insecurity, strong drive for perfection and performance, insecurity, lack of trust in your team’s abilities. Think about it and first attend to the why;
  2. Your way is not the only way – You also need to understand that your way is not the only way and not always the best way – allow your colleague to decide on the methods and processes used to get a job done;
  3. What instead of how – Concern yourself with what should be accomplished rather than detailing about how work should be done;
  4. Do what you do best, delegate the rest – At first delegation may feel like more hassle than it’s worth, but on the long term delegating effectively can extend the amount of work that you can deliver (remember 1 –  you need to realise that other people won’t do things the same way you would). Also, keep in mind that the person you are delegating to can take more than you first to achieve the task;
  5. Learn to delegate effectively – In a nutshell, assign tasks, give deadlines and touch base at predefined points along the way.

Of course, all of the above is just my personal point of view on micromanagement and the way you can switch from micromanaging to actual leadership. To sum it up, what I suggest is that you surround yourself with passionate professional A players, motivate them, delegate authority and responsibility, do your best to help them in their activities and stop yourself from bottlenecking their work or from interfering as long as projects or tasks are carried out as you’ve agreed with your team. Good luck!

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