A little while back, we kicked off a new series that’s sort of like the WebMD of work: let us diagnose the problems that are ailing your team. (See: Does Your Team Suffer from This Common Workplace Ailment?)
We’re back with another ad hoc opportunity for self-diagnosis, but we feel it’s important to preface this with: this is a safe space. We don’t judge. We have lots of flaws, too. (Trust us.)
- Like to be CC’d on emails
- Know not only what you want to have done, but exactly how you’d like it to have it done
- Frequently feel dissatisfied with other people’s work
- Often feel like you’d choose a different way to address a problem
- Expect reports on anything and everything
- Sometimes wonder if people are avoiding you
- Feel swamped and stressed dealing with minutiae
- Admit that you can sometimes be a “control freak”
- Find it hard to delegate work because you know you can do it better yourself
- See that you’re often a bottleneck in completing projects
If you answered yes to three or more of the above, then we have bad news:
You might be a micromanager.
(You still here? Sorry for the name calling. We believe in delivering bad news straight, but we promise this doesn’t reflect on you as a person as a whole.)
In fact, the good news is that being a micromanager reflects a lot of very positive things about your personality. You’re passionate and dedicated. You’re committed to excellence and want to do things perfectly. Chances are, you’ve been a rockstar in your previous roles. By focusing on details and taking total ownership over a project, you were able to deliver excellent results.
That’s why micromanagement is such an easy trap to fall into: it comes from a very good place—wanting to do a great job—and you’re probably totally unaware of the negative effects that it has on the people you work with. In fact, you’re probably certain that all of the things that you do that qualify as “micromanagement” are actually helping your colleagues and employees be better at their jobs.
So why is micromanagement so bad?
It sends the message, explicit or not, that you don’t trust the people on your team to do a good job on their own. This is obviously bad for their morale, but it also has a negative impact on their effectiveness and productivity. They’re not given the freedom and space to be creative and inventive, so they start producing increasingly mediocre results.
Your staff loses the confidence to perform tasks on their own, so they depend on you. It might feel nice to be needed at times, but it benefits no one. You can’t take a vacation or even an evening off without precisely outlining every single action item in advance. Eventually you get exhausted, start resenting your coworkers who can’t do a single thing right on their own, and burnout ensues.
Finally, most people hate to be micromanaged, and will eventually move on to other opportunities where they’ll have more autonomy. Micromanagement actively contributes to high turnover and the loss of important talent your company needs to grow and succeed.
That’s all the bad news. The good news is there’s a cure!
With the right tools, you can easily cure yourself of micromanagement. Not so coincidentally, it all lies in the very same things that make employees happy. See: Motivating Employees in 5 Easy Steps. In a nutshell,
Step 1: Get everyone aligned on the high level goals
When people understand how their work fits into the bigger picture, they’re able to see the importance of even the most minor or mundane of the tasks. It’s clear that everyone’s jobs contribute to something much bigger and more important than themselves.
This immediately lessens your need to micromanage. Rather than having to steer everyone’s ships for them and correct course after every task is complete, you can instead point to the destination you want everyone to go in…and then sail together as a fleet. (Did we take the boat analogy too far?)
Here at dapulse, we have all of our high level goals displayed on TV screens around the office. This keeps everyone aligned on what’s important, and encourages all of us to ask ourselves: “Is what I’m working on contributing to the company’s success?”
Step 2: Decide together as a team what you’ll do each week
We’ve written in depth about why you should manage your time by the week, but one benefit we forgot to mention is that it’s the perfect antidote for micromanagement.
A week is a time frame that’s easy to grasp; you can easily evaluate what you can achieve in one week and what you can’t. This is a game changer when it comes to managing people, because it gives people a realistic timeframe to stick by and gives them the chance to deliver on what they promised.
You can discuss the weekly tasks together as a team to ensure that they’re aligned with the bigger picture, and it helps people feel that they’re being guided without being nagged to death.
That’s one reason we’re obsessed with the team weekly task board: it’s such a simple but incredibly powerful way to get everyone aligned, and it gives a great overview of what everyone’s working on on both a micro and macro level. It’s basically a reformed micromanager’s dream come true.
Step 3: Focus on the metrics
We’re relentless about measuring the performance of just about everything (Meet the Big Brains Behind Our BI Tool BigBrain) not just because it’s critical to our business, but because it liberates us from the chains of micromanagement. Since we’re all clear on what the high level goals are, everyone is free to experiment and try new things on their own—as long as they can measure the results. The data is always our “responsible adult,” giving us the verdict on if our efforts were fruitful or not.
This is dramatically different from many traditional working environments where things are the way they are because the manager wants them that way, even if more junior employees are certain that there’s a better way.
If you’re a serious micromanager, chances are you’ll also need to do some introspection and emotional work. (Harvard Business Review says that CEOs frequently recreate the childhood dynamics that shaped their early family life. Cheers!)
Unfortunately, we can’t help as much with that…but if you follow the three steps we outlined above, you’ll be on the road to micromanagement recovery in no time.