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Unraveling the Micromanagement Dilemma

Yo dude. Micromanagement is macro-harmful.

Often I see micromanagement occur for three reasons:

  1. difficulty letting go
  2. lack of trust in teams
  3. good intentions gone wrong


So let’s tackle these real quick. Because managing your people and their work on the small things, causes big harm (micro/macro… see what I did in the first line now? haha)

Difficulty letting go

Micromanagement is a form of control. Instead, exercise control through clear direction. A leader can exercise control without being nosey, being forceful, or hovering (micromanaging). And it removes you from being a total bottleneck for everything.

If you’re an owner then your business is your baby and I respect that. If your a leader you are mutually invested in the organizations success and respect how the owner feels about their “baby.”

So the question becomes, how do you get your teams to respect that too?

Start with clearly explaining each person’s individual purpose. The overall vision and mission (purpose) of the organization may feel a little big and nebulous to them. So make it clear to them what their purpose is day-to-day. Help them understand why their role matters and how their work makes a difference. Giving purpose is a form of clear direction.

Secondly, I’m going to call out the fact that your employees will never care as much as you do about the business’ success. They just don’t have the same motivators and because of this it is impossible for them to care as much (they care, just not as much). However, you can help them respect how much you care. When your teams respect how much you care, and understand the role they play (purpose) in the success of the organization, then you will see the difference in their performance and have an easier time letting go of things.

Seeing your teams respect you and the business, allows you to trust them… so let’s segue to number two!

Lack of trust in teams

To relate to the above, trust is s form of respect. When you micromanage from a place of distrust it is belittling to the employee (opposite of respect). They will absolutely see that you do not trust them and they will become frustrated – which will perpetuate a spiral of miscommunication and decreased performance only amplifying your distrust. Round and round you go.

In order to trust your teams you want to see them perform well – to meet your standards and expectations. But you have to let them show you that they can do it in order for you to satisfy your conditions of trust.

To put it simply, trust enhances team performance. Your teams have to trust you as one of their leaders, and you have to trust them to deliver on your expectations.

Start by determining why you do not trust them: Have they performed poorly in the past? Has it happened in the same way more than once, or over difference occasions with different work? During those times were your expectations clear or were they trying to meet standards that only lived in your head? Were they entirely set up for success or was there a lack of resources or communication?

So many questions I would ask you in order to expose the Elephant in the Boardroom and get down to the bottom of things! For now, ask these of yourself 🙂

Good intentions gone wrong

Sometimes a leader, manager, or owner sees themselves as being helpful and the employee feels micromanaged. In this case leadership was intending to be available, provide support, offer training and guidance… And they went overboard.

We have to remember that people learn from doing and succeeding, as well as doing and failing. The best thing you can do is offer as much clarity about what resources are available, what success looks like, and set the expectation that asking questions and asking for help are regarded as “good behavior.”

In order to not overcorrect in the opposite direction and become too hands off, think of it like this: Just like you need to see that they can do it, they need to see that they can do it too. So keep communication lines open and set guidelines around what communication should like during the process of you stepping back a bit (so that they know when to ask for help, and you can trust them without developing another stomach ulcer in the process).

So remember…

Micromanagement is a form of control. And there are ways to exercise control without causing harm to your team members, yourself, or the way the organization operates. Provide clear direction and guidance for employees to follow. When expectations and purpose are clear, a team will be encouraged to perform their duties independently while also knowing when to ask questions. Job satisfaction, creativity, and employee engagement will improve.


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