If it’s the latter, you might be a micromanager. Or, if you’re the harried worker trying to make a deadline with a boss hovering at your shoulder, you might have a micromanager on your hands – someone who just can’t let go of the control of tiny details. Are you one? There was an old management concept which served management well in the past :
“People do not do what you expect, but People will do what you Inspect!”
Micromanagers take perfectly positive attributes – for example an attention to detail and a hands-on attitude – to the absolute extreme. Either because they’re control-obsessed, or because they feel driven to push everyone around them to success, micromanagers risk turning-off their staff. They ruin their staff’s confidence, hurt their performance, and frustrate them to the point where they quit.
Luckily, though, there are ways to identify these overzealous tendencies in yourself – and get rid of them before they do more damage. And if you work for a micromanager, there are strategies you can use to convince him or her to accept your independence.
First, though, how do you spot the signs of micromanagement ? Where is the line between being an involved manager, and an over-involved manager who’s driving his team mad?
Signs of Micromanagement
What follows are some signs that you might be a micromanager – or have one on your hands. In general, micromanagers :
• Resist delegating;
• Immerse themselves in overseeing the projects of others;
• Start by correcting tiny details instead of looking at the big picture
• Take back delegated work before it is finished if they find a mistake in it; and
• Discourage others from making decisions without consulting them.
What’s wrong with Micromanaging?
If you are getting results by micromanaging and keeping your nose in everyone’s business, why not carry on?
Micromanagers often affirm the value of their approach with a simple experiment: They give an employee an assignment, and then disappear until the deadline. Is this employee likely to excel when given free rein?
Empowerment versus Micromanagement?
Possibly – if the worker has exceptional confidence in his abilities. Under micromanagement however, most workers become timid and tentative – possibly even paralyzed. “No matter what I do,” such a worker might think to himself, “It won’t be good enough.” Then one of two things will happen: Either the worker will ask the manager for guidance before the deadline, or he will forge ahead, but come up with an inadequate result.
In either case, the micromanager will interpret the result of his experiment as proof that, without his constant intervention, his people will flounder or fail.
But do these results verify the value of micromanagement or condemn it? A truly effective manager sets up those around him to succeed. Micromanagers , on the other hand, prevent employees from making – and taking responsibility for – their own decisions. But it’s precisely the process of making decisions, and living with the consequences, that causes people to grow and improve. We need today to learn to Empower our staff and create growth.
Good managers empower their employees to do well by giving opportunities to excel; Bad managers micromamange their employees by hoarding those opportunities. A micromanaged employee is an ineffective one – one who requires a lot of time and energy from his supervisor.
It’s that time and energy, multiplied across a whole team of timid controlled workers, that amounts to a serious and self-defeating drain on a manager’s time. It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with analysis, planning, communication with other teams, and the other “big-picture” tasks of managing, when you are sweating the details of what the staff should be doing.
What we can learn from Eggs & Baby Eagles?
Egg-shells look deceivingly fragile. The truth is that breaking out presents almost insurmountable problems for an eagle. Baby eagles don’t even know that they are inside a shell, since their eyes are still closed.
What makes the situation of infant birds even more critical, if that they have very limited time to accomplish their feat. The little oxygen that gets through the shell won’t keep them alive for long. At a certain moment, almost by magic, the baby eagle begins to move and break out of the egg.
If you break the egg-shell to help the baby eagle get out, chances are that you will either kill it or prevent it from ever being able to fly or soar as it was meant to. If the baby eagle is unable to hatch on its own efforts, it means that nature has other plans.
Why do baby eagles break out of the shell? The simplicity of the answer will not make it less shocking. At a certain point in their development, it becomes too uncomfortable to remain inside the egg. It gets too constrained, too warm, too sticky, too hard to breathe inside the shell. Hmm sounds like micromanagement!
Invisible shells are the hardest to break. Inevitably, each of us carries around a few. Unlike those of an eagle, our staffs shells are not made of calcium, but of fear and indecision. We often underestimate the resiliency or ability of our staff to rise to the occasion or break out of their shell by themselves.
Every baby eagle must break out of its own shell. Life will be always fraught with distress and difficulties. When we allow our staff to struggle on their own we are allowing them to grow. Hard as it may be for us we must allow empowerment and stop micromanagement.
So now you’ve identified micro-managerial tendencies and seen why they’re bad. What can you do if you know you’re exhibiting such behaviors – or are being subjected to them by a supervisor?
From the micromanager’s perspective, the best way to build healthier relationships with employees may be the most direct: Talk to them.
It might take several conversations to convince them that you’re serious about change. Getting frank feedback from employees is the hard part. This means giving your employees the leeway – and encouragement – to succeed. Focus first on the ones with the most potential, and learn to delegate effectively to them.
Part of being a good manager, one often lost on those of the micro variety, is listening. Managers fail to listen when they forget their employees have important insights – and people who don’t feel listened to become disengaged.
As for the micromanaged, well, things are a bit more complicated. Likely as not, you’re being held back in your professional development – and probably not making the progress in your career that you could be if you enjoyed workplace independence.
But there’s a certain amount that you can do to improve the situation:
• Help your boss to delegate to you more effectively, by prompting him to give you all the information you will need up front, and to set interim review points along the way.
• Volunteer to take on projects that you’re confident you’ll be good at. This will start to increase his confidence in you – and his delegation skills.
• Make sure that you communicate progress to your boss regularly, to discourage him from seeking information just because he hasn’t had any for a while.
• Concentrate on helping your boss to change one micromanagement habit at a time. Remember that he’s only human too, and is allowed to make mistakes!
Review of Key points:
Micromanagement restricts the ability of people to develop and grow, and it also limits what the micromanager’s team can achieve, because everything has to go through him or her. Micro-management is simply not an effective method and will frustrate good staff.
When a boss is reluctant to delegate, focuses on details ahead of the big picture and discourages his staff from taking the initiative, there’s every chance that he’s sliding or falling towards micromanagement.
The first step in avoiding the micromanagement trap (or getting out of it once you’re there) is to recognize the danger signs by talking to your staff or boss. If you’re micromanaged, help your boss see there is a better way of working. And if you are a micromanager, work hard on those delegation skills and learn to trust your staff to develop and deliver.
Micromanagement is definitely something to avoid if you want the best management and to get the best out of your staff.
I recommend anyone to learn the skills of delegation, and also to be on the look-out for those signs of micromanagement .
However experienced you are as the General manager or team leader, there will be situations and people that might lead you astray. So keep hold of that thought. Look out for the symptoms from time to time, and hopefully you’ll avoid it. Be a person that empowers your staff and watch them grow, struggle to break out of their shells and yes allow them to fly!