We’ve all been there. We have that manager that tells us what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and every detail about our task so that we feel MICROMANAGED. When we are micromanaged, we feel like our boss doesn’t trust us; and treats us like an idiot who doesn’t know our job and how it is to be done. We feel like our job sucks because we don’t offer any value attributable to our unique character. We sense that the company doesn’t value us very much, if our boss needs to tell us exactly what to do.
I have those employees that just don’t seem to get it right. I have trained them, and told them what to do, but I know they’ll mess it up. I just can’t seem to hire people who “GET IT”. They seem to need me to tell them exactly what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and every little detail about the task. I feel like, “if I want something done right, I need to do it myself.” Our team is behind on all of its objectives and I feel like I need to replace my current staff with people who will take the initiative and do the jobs I give them without being told what to do.
Why does Micro-Management Happen?
Micromanagement starts with a manager who has not learned to be a leader. Often, a person is promoted to his or her position of authority as a manager because they were great at some work they did. If they are a great sales person, they may be promoted to the position of sales manager. If the person is a great engineer, he or she will be promoted to engineering manager. In these periods of promotion, they may even be told something like, “You are such a great engineer, we want everyone to be like you; and so we are promoting you to engineering manager.” This kind of statement reinforces the idea that your way is the right way; and everyone needs to do things your way. This type of thought is where micromanagement behavior is born.
How to be an Empowering Manager
In order to empower your staff, you need to constantly tell yourself, “the only way I succeed, is if everyone on my team succeeds.” This simple statement will force you to look at the development of your team members first. Let me give you an example: Let’s say that you have an engineering project that has an aggressive deadline. You manage a team of mechanical and electrical engineers who need to get design drawings to an architect in 1-month. Your natural inclination is to take on some of these tasks yourself to help your team meet the aggressive deadline. DON’T DO IT.
Here are six things you can do to avoid the MICROMANAGEMENT trap:
- Fully delegate all project tasks to your team.
- Encourage your team and give them confidence.
- Check on individual team member progress periodically.
- Train team members in areas of lacking understanding.
- Hold members accountable.
- Give credit & don’t take credit.
It’s easy for me to write down these ideas in this article, but quite difficult for a manager to successfully execute. Let’s look at each item:
Fully Delegate Tasks
Especially, in tight deadlines, you tell yourself, “Surely, I can help the team out. After all, they’ll be overwhelmed with all of the tasks necessary. In fact, some of these tasks, they can’t do.” All of these statements are dis-empowering to your team; whether you tell them or show them. As a manager, you cannot be a doer. If you are a team-lead and not a manager, then you need to only do tasks that put you in a roll as a checker of your subordinate’s work; and not a doer.
Encourage Your Team
Before a project has started, you have no idea if your team will succeed or fail. So, why not set a positive direction from the start? So many managers try to start anticipating every obstacle and talk about these obstacles instead of building up people to believe they can succeed. Be clear about the challenge; but be just as clear about your confidence in them to handle the challenge. Most people are already apprehensive when you give them a lofty task to perform, they need their manager to build them up; not tear them down.
Like it or not, your team members will not come to you when they feel like they are falling behind. So, it is up to you to go on offense and ask members how they are doing; and what you can do to help. As a manager, you should know where each team member ought to be in order to meet team goals. If they are behind, it is important that you let them know they need to catch up; but you also need to give them help. This HELP needs to come in the form of encouragement, training or mentoring; and NOT DOING. Your roll in checking in, is simply making sure they are on track to meet the team’s deadline or your end goal.
It is quite normal for team members to view you as an expert in what they are doing. Especially, if you were promoted to a management position from within the ranks of the DOERS. Instead of doing the task of your team member; or even telling your team member what to do; it is helpful to ask your struggling team member their thoughts about how they think they ought to do the task. This simple question tells them two things: 1) You value my opinion; and 2) You value my ability to figure it out. If your team member struggles with this approach, give them hints or tell them things that will still allow them to figure out a solution. Finally, if your team member is still struggling with the answer, then tell them what you would do; and how you would do it.
As a manager, you need to be tuned in with the actual skills and abilities of your team members. If they are lacking in an area of training, it is your job to train them; or provide outside training resources to get them to where they need to be. If they have the ability, but lack the confidence to try things their way (most often the case), you need to create an environment where they feel empowered to act.
Accountability is often thought of in a negative way. Accountability is merely a necessary feedback loop that all human beings need in order to operate in a productive work environment. Since managers think that accountability is negative, they often avoid such discussions until their team’s project has failed; and they are looking for someone to blame. Here is how accountability looks on the front end. If you succeed at the task you have been assigned, here are the good things will happen to you. If you fail at the task you have been assigned, these are the bad things will happen to you. Most mangers feel like these good and bad things are implied; and therefore not necessary to talk about. Other managers feel like professional workers need no incentive one way or another. After all, they are professionals, they are paid a lot of money to succeed. And if they fail, they know they will lose their job or get some bad performance review.
If you have a team project, I also encourage team accountability. If the team misses the team objective, all members of the team will suffer the consequences; and if the team meets the team objective, all members of the team will benefit. This team reward system may naturally propagate whining about how one team member is not pulling his or her weight. This imbalance of weight pulling is an opportunity to have an honest discussion. But it is not a valid excuse for team failure.
If you have properly stayed out of micromanaging, the team has truly earned any credit for a successful finish. Likewise, if the team failed to achieve the goal of success, you need to take responsibility for the failure. Why? Because that is the way it works when you lead. In the leader/follower equation, it is much more difficult to follow. And yet, leaders are usually paid more money for leading. The least you can do is give the credit of success to your staff. If you fail, you have no one to blame but yourself. The leader can pick and choose who is on his/her team (for the most part). The leader delegates tasks to those who ought to be capable to perform the tasks. And the leader is responsible to motivate and hold team members responsible for project success.
This doesn’t mean that your team does not suffer whatever discipline faces team failure that I talked about in Accountability; and that they don’t benefit from additional rewards outlined in Accountability. But in front of your boss, others in the company and your customers; give positive credit to your team members; and take responsibility for team failures. You will be amazed at the loyalty such a simple act will do for you in future team projects.
If you are a manager who struggles with motivating your team to perform; or struggles with micromanaging your team members, I urge you to reach out to a leadership coach or business coach to get help. Often, managers are not quite sure if they are being too authoritative, or are too hard on team members. An outside perspective of a coach, mentor or consultant can make all of the difference. If you’d like to learn more about coaching I provide my clients, please fill out the contact form below.
Note from the Author
My name is Jeff Schuster. I am a certified Life and Business Coach serving small business owners, corporate executives and others who want to transition from “expert” to “entrepreneur”. I have been a small business owner for most of my 30-years in the workplace. I grew an energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering and construction company from nothing to over $10-million/year and sold it in 2013. I now help other business owners make amazing progress toward their own dreams of business ownership independence and success.