I have heard a phrase used many times in leadership training and when coaching one to one.
It’s said with sincere conviction and a genuine belief that “it’s just me and who I am”, yet it is, without doubt, one of the most damaging habits a leader can have and one of the most challenging to break.
The phrase? “I am just a control freak, that’s all”.
It’s often said as a throwaway comment that justifies why a leader is shall we say, “excessively meddling in their team’s day to day activities”.
So if you ask to be cc’d into all your team‘s emails, have a need to know all the minutiae of what each team member is working on and insist that things are done your way, then I am afraid to tell you that you have a severe case of “micromanagement”.
Moreover, it’s a habit well worth stopping now if you have ambitions to progress your leadership career to the next level.
Today I want to share five reasons to stop micromanaging now and what to start doing instead.
First though, let’s get clear on what we are talking about here.
What Is Micromanagement?
Wikipedia defines micromanagement as;
“A management style whereby a manager closely observes and controls and reminds the work of their subordinates or employees.”
Apologies – Wikipedia seems to like the word subordinates!
Reason 1: You Become and Remain A Fire Fighter
Having worked in many organisations with teams from functional groups such as operations to marketing, research and most in-between, I have seen examples where teams adapt to a micromanager. Generally, it’s been in one of two ways;
- The team, in their frustration, become quietly rebellious.
- Or incapable of working independently and making decisions without consulting.
The consequence of setting up this way of working is your team spend an inordinate amount of time firefighting instead of focusing on high priority and essential tasks that only you as a leader can action.
Reason 2: Communicates A Lack of Trust
The result of continued micromanagement is a complete breakdown of trust.
No longer will you be seen as the role model leader, instead you will be viewed as someone who gets in the way of your team members using the talents they were hired for in the first place.
Several things happen when people feel they are not trusted:
- The law of reciprocity applies, and your team members begin to lose trust in you too.
- Employees become de-motivated, which impacts productivity.
- If there are no signs of “change” employees will look to use their talents elsewhere.
This could be in another department or externally in a new organisation.
Reason 3: Creates Dependency
Research by Drs Gene Dalton and Paul Thomson in their Four Stages Of Contribution model demonstrates there are four stages an employee can transition through as they look to increase their individual contribution to an organisation.
Stage one is known as the ‘Contributing Dependently’. Now the reality is when an employee starts a new job in their existing or a new company, they spend some time being dependent as they begin to learn new systems and processes, get to know the ins and outs of their new role as well as potentially building relationships and networks.
Over time and with appropriate management, the aim is for a person to develop towards an Independent Contributor. However, micromanagement sets up an environment where an employee
stops thinking for themselves. They either wait to be told what to do next or ask their manager what to do.
Micromanagement makes employees feel like they can’t perform their job on their own without guidance. It’s worth remembering employees are recruited because they bring new expertise and/or knowledge to a team.
If you don’t use your team‘s talents and insights, your risk a couple of things happening; your employee starts to lose the skills, through lack of practice, you employed them for in the first place, or they get so cheesed off they leave to join an organisation where they can utilise what they know and are respected too.
Reason 4: Lack of Big Picture And Strategic Focus
There are only so many hours in a day. If you are looking at the minutiae of each team member and controlling what they do day to day, how on earth are you going to have time to focus on the strategic side of your role?
Earlier I mentioned the Four Stages of Contribution Model, stage 4 is known as Strategic Contribution. Unless you build your skills, delegating and developing your team, how will you free up time to contribute more widely in your role?
This answer is simple. You won’t. If you do not increase your capability to add more value in your position while your management colleagues are, be prepared for some uncomfortable conversations.
Finally, reason five, and it’s a biggie.
Reason 5: Limits Development
While many leaders I have worked with over the years eventually realise that their controlling, micromanagement style impacts the development of team members, it often takes longer for them to appreciate, that ultimately they are limiting their growth too.
We have spoken already about time. Unless a leader learns to delegate tasks, responsibility and extends trust to employees, they will not create the space, time or energy to apply themselves to new projects and opportunities delegated to themselves as part of their development plan.
So, what can you do to remove micromanaging as your go-to strategy?
Start by :–
A Focus on Results and Not Minutiae
Objectives and Key Results (OKR) is a management technique which provides all the useful elements of micromanagement without the need for total control.
Accept Good Is Good Enough
These are the words of an old mentor of mine. When I first heard them, I remember thinking, ‘but I don’t want to do work that is just good enough’. However, over time, I realised that my perfectionist streak, (Yes, I have been guilty of having one too) didn’t serve me. Moreover, it isn’t helping you either!
Develop Your Feedback Skills
As part of developing people, of course, you need to tell people what they can improve to get better results.
How you give feedback can be the difference between a demotivated individual and a person who is inspired to do their work and make you and consequently themselves, proud. Remember, feedback is also about telling your team what they are good at doing and what you would like to see them doing more of.
What next? Start by identifying if you recognise any of the micromanagement behaviours highlighted in this article. Which habits are particularly strong?
Plan what you want to change and where you will start.
Until next time.
About blue pea POD
At blue pea POD, we are in the business of enabling leaders and organisations understand who they are, their identity and purpose, creating the profitable future they desire now.
Blue Pea POD works internationally with a client base that includes the FMCG, Retail, and Pharmaceuticals sectors. You can subscribe to our podcast here and then if you would like to find out more about how we can help you get in contact here. Or call +44(0) 845 123 1280