You know that moment when a boss appears to be bearing down on you,
nitpicking, or just plain in your business? Your insides tie into
knots and you feel your blood pressure rise. Inside your head, a
voice screams, "Why don't you just leave me alone and let me do my
job?!" If this has happened to you, then you know what it feels
like to be micromanaged.
Perhaps you've risen in your career to the point of managing
others, and are wondering if you've turned into that type of boss.
When you ask your people questions about projects you have
delegated to them do you observe rolled eyes, heavy sighs, gurgles,
or groans? Do you hear enthusiastic debates about work that
abruptly cease when you enter the room? Are you the only person in
your group who is working long hours? If you can answer yes to any
of these questions, you might be a micromanager.
Micromanaging is a serious problem that left unchecked can damage
both productivity and morale. Yes, I understand you have good
reasons for what you do. I've heard (and made) all these excuses
- I don't have time to teach them.
- I want it done right.
- I am afraid they can't handle it.
The problem with all of these excuses is that they are just
thatexcuses. How would you have gotten to where you are today if
your bosses didn't allow you the time to learn? In the book
Love 'em or Lose 'em by Beverly Kaye and Sharon
Jordan-Evans, the authors report on a survey of 17,000 people
regarding why they stay in their jobs. The top three motivators
include exciting work and challenge; career growth, learning, and
development; and working with great people.
We are trainers at heart, and it should come naturally for us to
share our knowledge, skills, and abilities. Sure, it is an
investment of our time on the front end, but it is worth it for the
long term. If you can't trust your staff members to do something
"right" then why did you hire them? This goes the same for
wondering if they can "handle it." If you have the right people on
your team, provide them with the tools and support they need and
relax! If you don't have the right peoplewell, that is a different
problem, but doing the work yourself is still not the answer.
OK, this is all good talk but how do you stop micromanaging?
Have a plan. If you don't know where you are going
chances are you will never get there. Now that you are a manager,
your job is to be strategic (planning) not tactical (doing). So as
a manager, you should be more of a planner, structuring tasks to a
timeline and assigning those tasks to others.
Break the project into chunks. Have a clear understanding of each
person's capabilities. Give each person what he can handle with a
bit of a stretch and have them create their own plans set around
the major deadlines. In the beginning, you might give your staff a
project plan and ask them to fill in minor tasks they will need to
accomplish. As they grow in experience and responsibility, you will
be able to assign the entire project.
Communicate and coach to goals and boundaries.
Remember that management is getting work done through others. It
does not mean doing it yourself. Provide structure and
communication up front. Make sure when you delegate that you have
explained the entire project from start to finish and how the piece
you have delegated fits into the whole. Set and openly discuss
expectations. Be very clear about the consequences if tasks don't
happen as planned. Establish your expectations (or personal need)
for updates and communication. Also let people know that there are
safe boundaries they need to work within and that you will alert
them if they are in danger of crossing these. Examples of such
boundaries include anything that could cause grave consequences to
the company or individual such as policy, legal, or regulatory
guidelines. In other words, coach your staff to the goal; don't
carry the ball for them.
Manage deadlines not details. Once you have a
plan, manage the plan. This means you need to allow your people the
ability and autonomy to perform, learn, and grow. Here is where
setting your expectations for communication comes into play. If you
fail to receive communication as specified then you know it's time
to ask questions. When you approach people, don't go into the
details or offer unsolicited advice about how to get things done.
Ask them if they are on track for the deadline. If you hear or
sense that a staff member is having problems, offer assistance but
don't sound the alarm unless a safe boundary is in danger of being
crossed. Do step in when there is an obstacle most appropriately
addressed from your management level, such as dealing with someone
over your direct report's head. Give them the responsibility for
the project, not a to-do or task list. Trust me, if you do your
staff's work for them, they will let you.
Build trust and offer a safety net. Unfortunately,
most of us learn through our mistakes. If you are giving a project
or new responsibility to someone who has been untested, make room
for mistakes and errors. Always think ahead and be prepared should
the unforeseen happen. If someone is failing to meet a deadline, be
sure to communicate with that person directly.
Offer your assistance, but don't step in until you see that the
person is crossing a boundary of professional or personal harm.
When you do step in, let him or her know why. Again, offer advice
for how to get back on track and don't offer to do it for them.
Planning for the unexpected will provide a safety net for both your
department and your employee.
In short, talented people want to grow and take on increasing
responsibility. If they don't get this from you, they will most
likely move to another department or leave the company altogether.
But if they like you doing their work for them, chances are you
will only get more and more work to do.