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Jul 10, 2013

You’ve no doubt have heard the term “micromanage” before. Most likely it conjures up negative connotations.

It’s no surprise that research has shown that micromanagers can destroy strategies, eliminate creative thinking, and turn employees into mindless “yes men” rather than valuable contributors.

We all know that relinquishing control can be tough, especially if you’ve given your blood, sweat and tears to creating or developing something.

The idea of handing over the reins to another person who may not deliver it the way you envisioned can be nerve-wracking. It’s easy to scrutinize every move they make in order to see the results you intended.

Some of the traits of a micromanager

Unfortunately, this type of management creates serious problems. Employees become de-motivated and disheartened when a manager constantly takes back tasks at the first sign of trouble or just delegates menial tasks rather than offering employees rewarding work.

When employees do not develop their own skills, it becomes impossible for them to add value to the company. In that atmosphere, it is very difficult for an employee to thrive, much less the business unit or company.

During exit interviews, most people will claim that they are leaving because they found a better paying position elsewhere. However, in The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, Leigh Branham points out that the real reason most people leave is because of “basic leadership failures around coaching, feedback, value, recognition, trust, and a lack of a career development opportunity.”

The scary thing is that most micromanagers do not realize that they are doing it, or worse, have justified the reasons they should do it.

Unsure if you fall into that category? If you don’t want to lose your people, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How hard is it for you to relinquish control of projects?
  • Do you find yourself hovering over the shoulders of employees, critiquing and commenting on everything they do?
  • Do you interject in conversations, email chains or other forms of communication between employees when it’s not really necessary?
  • Do you find it hard to delegate tasks that others can handle because you feel you can do it better, faster, or the “right” way?

If you find yourself doing a few of these things, you’re likely a micromanager.

Avoiding the condition

Wondering what you should do? By no means am I suggesting that you stop paying attention to what your employees are working on or stop caring about projects. Shifting your focus from perfecting the end result to improving your training process is the first step towards the right direction.

In other words, take off your micromanagement hat and focus on coaching instead. You may even surprise yourself and find your own career improving!

  1. Be honest – Clearly, you like things done a certain way if you’ve been micromanaging. Let your staff know what you expect in the end and how you’d like it to be done.
  2. Provide proper training in the first place – It’s unfair to critique someone on what they do when you haven’t given them clear direction in the first place.
  3. Keep an open-door policy – Let your staff know that while you like it done a certain way, you’re not against hearing ideas that can improve it.
  4. Stay open-minded – Don’t shoot down suggestions without giving it real thought. Ask them to flush out ideas further if you think it could work. If you are not going to use their idea, give them a valid reason why instead of just saying no. If you can’t think of one, it means you should probably reconsider using it.
  5. Take a chance – Remember the old adage, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” In most industries, there is more than one way to do things, so you owe it to yourself, your company, and your clients to explore all options.

It’s important to remember that you hired your employees for their skills and abilities. You must trust that they are capable of doing their jobs and will come to you if they need guidance. It always helps to develop a well-rounded incentives plan that rewards the process instead of the results.

For example, publicly commend your staff for submitting ideas, making process improvements, and brainstorming initiatives, even if they aren’t part of an actual project. It will show them that you value their contributions, and will keep them engaged and more interested in seeing that your objectives get met.