By Keith Barnwell
“The best executive is the one that picks good people to do what they want done, and has the self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it” – Barbara Jordan
I come across micromanagers all too often when I am coaching, and they are all very quick to justify their dysfunctional behaviour for a number of reasons, such as:
“It’s my way, or the highway”
“Only I know what is best”
“No-one else can do it as well as I do”
“It’s a lot easier to just do it myself than take the time to explain how”
“I am the one with all the experience around here”
“If they get it wrong, it’s my job on the line”
Micromanaging leaders can destroy the self-confidence of their people and the motivation within their teams’. They question others’ judgments, constantly want updates, and check in incessantly. It demonstrates a lack of trust in their team members and increases the workload for already busy people.
A micromanager often tends to be excessively focused on procedural trivia rather than on overall performance, quality and results. This focus on ‘low-level’ data can delay decisions, cloud overall objectives, restrict the free flow of information between team members and guide the various aspects of a project in different and often opposing directions. Many micromanagers accept such inefficiencies because they consider the outcome of a project less important than their retention of control, or at least the appearance of control.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that people who believe they are being constantly watched and monitored do not perform as well as they could. In his book, My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide, Harry Chambers identified that 79 percent of those surveyed said they’d been micromanaged at one time or another.
So why do it? Many excessively controlling bosses feel the need to constantly monitor efficiency, or to keep things on track, especially if they have been let down in the past. Others simply don’t know any better, perhaps having been promoted into their managerial role without adequate training, or it was how they were managed themselves.
Below are just some points for you to consider about micromanagement:
Micromanagement can cause people to become resentful or disengaged and will ultimately stifle innovation and creativity
You don’t need to prove that you know everything or can do things better than others, but you do need to lead. If you stop listening to what they are telling you, your ability to make good decisions will suffer
The best is the enemy of good. Many micromanaging leaders are often also perfectionists. It can be very demoralising for their people to have to constantly waste so much of their time and effort in trying to make everything perfect
Get to know your team members as people. Find out what their individual strengths and weaknesses are and how best to motivate them. Identify the ones that need more support, and those that don’t
Trust that they are able to succeed in their own way and give them the space to grow and develop, yours is not the only way things can be done
While you are busy looking over everyone’s shoulder you may be missing the really important information
Be happy to be the leader of the team and not its star performer
Coach your people instead of telling them what to do, encourage them to think for themselves
Be prepared to delegate, but do so in a way that gives real responsibility and builds others confidence
Never be afraid to have people who are smarter than you in your team and around you. Remember that when they shine, so do you
If you feel you are guilty of micromanaging, try standing back and letting your people become all they can be, but be ready to support them when they need it. You may find yourself amazed at the skills and abilities they really posses, and who knows, you may even learn a few things along the way yourself. You may also know others who micromanage, or even work for a micromanager yourself. If so just remember that they may be unaware of the effect that their behaviour has on those around them and consider giving them the feedback that they may need in order to change.
Thank you for reading and please share this post with others who you think may find it helpful.
This is an extract from the LeaderFocus App for the iPad available on iTunes. To learn more and to download the LeaderFocus App click on the icon. Keith Barnwell is a leadership development specialist and executive coach at It’s All About Leadership