You’ve heard it a million times — people bitching about their micromanaging supervisors. I coach a lot of my former employees, and probably at least once a week I hear from someone who’s unlucky enough to work for a micromanager. Could you be one? Here’s a quick guide to help you rate yourself:
- Do you manage a team of smart, energetic people who know their jobs, but insist on telling them what to do anyway?
- Do you repeatedly showcase your expertise by second-guessing everyone on your team?
- Do you have to make all the decisions, set all the priorities, do all the talking?
If you answered "yes" to even one of these questions, then watch out!
Micromanagers are the most demoralizing force in the workplace. Nobody wants to work for someone who’s "right" all the time. Some of the most common results are frequent high turnover, and delayed and missed deadlines as the team scrambles to meet the latest insignificant demand from the boss. More importantly, though, micromanaged teams are rarely able to execute strategically. Micromanagers, by nature, can’t see the big picture. They’re too busy managing the details! And that is reflected in the performance of the team.
If you fit the mold of a micromanager, what can you do? Try to practice what my old friend Jonathan Roberts refers to as "strategic management". Get agreement from your team members on the outcomes you want. Be results oriented, rather than prescriptive. Then get out of the way and let them get to work. Let go of the details, and focus on managing the team to the outcome. Save your bullets for the decisions you really need to make. You might be surprised. Those highly paid individuals who work for you might know a thing or two about how to get the job done.
Once you’ve mastered strategic management, try to move beyond that to what I call "aspirational leadership". Enroll your team in the outcomes. Have them set goals appropriate to their areas of responsibility. Encourage them to think for themselves, and swing for the fences instead of the infield. In my opinion, this kind of leadership is the single most important ingredient in building high performance teams.
And if you work for a micromanager, good luck. You have my condolences.