Leadership coach Muriel Maignan Wilkins, writing in the Harvard Business Review , has listed a number of micromanager traits, which we’ve adapted to a small-business environment:
• You’re never quite satisfied with deliverables.
• You often feel frustrated because you would’ve gone about the task differently.
• You laser in on the details and take great pride and /or pain in making corrections.
• You constantly want to know where all your team members are and what they’re working on.
• You ask for frequent updates on where things stand.
• You prefer to be cc’d on emails.
Wilkins also identifies four strategies to “cure” you of micromanagement inclinations:
1. Get over yourself
Strong words, but Wilkins insists that the polite defences of serial micromanagers (i.e. “It will save me time if I do it myself”) are actually excuses for unreasonable attitudes (i.e. “I don’t believe it’s worth my time to let them try, because they won’t get it right anyway”).
2. Let it go
As a leader you don’t add value in the “micro” tasks – you make the difference in the big tasks, where your experience can be utilized to the full. Look at your to-do lists and start picking out the items others can do, and the tasks which were made for you.
3. Give the ‘what’ not the ‘how’
Your job as a manager is to define the end result, not how your team gets there, beyond respecting good professional practice. Draw on the creativity in your team and let them find a way to that end result.
4. Expect to win (most of the time)
Wilkins claims that micromanagers are often disproportionality afraid of failure. By focusing on the possibility of failure, and micromanaging employees to avoid, employees develop “learned
helplessness,” which makes failure a bigger possibility, turning into a vicious cycle. Stepping back will result in some failures, but will in the long term build up a stronger team.
You can read
Wilkins’ original article on the HBR website.
Related: The four types of bad bosses
Micromanagers get a pretty bad rap; attention to detail is hugely important in this industry and sloppy staff is a huge burden. But there is a limit; and applying the same level of scrutiny to every task can end up damaging productivity and morale.