Are You a Micro-Manager?

Last published in this blog November, 2017

I am sure that if I posed this question to a group of 100 managers and leaders, barely a few will put their hands up. Micro-managers either don’t know that they are micro-managers or don’t want to admit it.

If you are one of the poor souls who is brave enough to put your hand up, first of all, I commend you for admitting it and secondly, I beg you to stop.

Micro-management is frustrating, demoralizing and, most importantly, demotivating to everyone on the receiving end.  This leadership style impedes growth, creativity and enjoyment of the job.  No one wants to work for a micro-manager.

Why do people micromanage?  I can come up with 3 potential reasons:

  1. They believe that no one can do it better than themselves and they do not trust anyone on the team to complete the work at hand without their involvement.
  2. They are afraid of creating results that could put them at risk if not done properly. They are afraid of failure. With their name on it, the only way to avoid failure or sub-par results, is to do it themselves or manage it to the detail that ensures success in their minds.
  3. The work at hand is what they really want to do, love to do and are very good at doing. In truth, some micromanagers shouldn’t be managers. They should have stayed in the trenches and done what they really love to do. They are in the wrong job.

Are you a micromanager?

The Harvard Business Review published an article titled “Signs That You’re a Micro-manager” and listed these 6 signs:

  • You’re never quite satisfied with deliverables.
  • You often feel frustrated because you would’ve gone about the task differently.
  • You laser in on the details and take great pride and /or pain in making corrections.
  • You constantly want to know where all your team members are and what they’re working on.
  • You ask for frequent updates on where things stand.
  • You prefer to be cc’d on emails.

I would add that you know that delegation is not your strong suit. 

If any of these signs ring true for you, you have some work to do. So, what can you do?  Here are some ideas:

  1. STOP! This is a serious issue for many around you. It is that important.
  2. Stop believing that you are the only person that can do this work and start realizing that you are surrounded by some very talented people. You need to give them a chance. Someone very wise once said to me “Everyone, even you, can be replaced”.
  3. Let it go. It is not the end of the world if the product doesn’t come out perfectly in your eyes, or anyone else’s. Life will go on and you will not be the lesser for it.
  4. Put the following words on the bulletin board in front of you: Give the ‘what’ – not the ‘how’. Read it everyday and think about it as you interact with your employees. They want direction because you’re smart and very capable. They don’t want you to do it for them.
  5. Learn to accept failure. It will happen and it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. This is a natural part of the business world. You can’t be there all the time to save it.
  6. Learn how to delegate. You probably have some very good delegators in your life including some of your own managers and directors. Watch them and maybe even ask for some coaching. Delegation skills are the key to fixing your micromanagement issues.

Micro-management is a serious leadership issue and one that many of us need to address.  Are you one of them?

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2 thoughts on “Are You a Micro-Manager?”

  1. Sadly, this can apply to many in our management ranks. I figure it comes from a place of insecurity and is an element of an over-compensation for their insecurities.

  2. Michael Hilbert

    David, Great reflections on this topic. I would submit a 4th reason for micro-management is the belief that it will take me longer to show you how to do it, than if I just did it myself. Kind of an off-shoot of reason 1 above but I have heard this used many times over the years. (And if I am honest, I have used it myself!) Good lessons learned for every manager.

    Regards,
    Mike

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