Overcoming Your Micromanaging Tendencies

We all know micromanaging is bad, either from personal experiences, or from the countless articles online that tell us so. I believe that nobody really wants to be a micromanager… in theory. But if you are very talented at what you do, it can be difficult to resist micromanaging in the day-to-day. This is especially true if you are a new manager of someone who is now doing the job you used to do.

Risk Factors

One of the major problems of micromanaging is that we do it with good intentions. Even worse, we often don’t realize we are doing it (even the most self-aware of leaders fall into this trap).

You may be at risk for micromanaging if:

  • You pride yourself on your attention to detail
  • You could be described as a perfectionist
  • Others have called you independent or self-reliant
  • You are very hands-on, willing to do any task required
  • You are managing someone who is now doing the job you used to do

Strategies for Effectiveness

One thing that can help immensely is to quit comparing others’ work to how you would do it. In addition to that, here are some strategies you can use to stop yourself before you do any harm:

Consider the work. Think about the entire scope of your responsibilities—this includes the responsibilities of your direct reports as well. Decide what can be delegated. Your goal is to delegate the majority of the predictable work so you have time and energy to to deal with the unexpected. If at any point you decide something is unfit to be delegated, keep asking yourself why (i.e., the 5 whys technique) until you reach the appropriate cause and solution.

Pick three. When you are tempted to take a red pen to that proposal your direct report just handed you, stop yourself. Instead of pointing out minor things such as grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, take a big picture view instead. Name three things that were impressive or have been done well and name three things that still need work.

Look for patterns. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and it can be helpful to keep these in mind when reviewing and assigning work. Define expectations up front and stick to that so you know what subpar and exceptional performance is when you see it. Then, only focus your attention on the areas that are in need of improvement. View this as a coaching opportunity. And if everything exceeds your expectations? Maybe it’s time for more challenging work.

Encourage initiative. Beyond the ordinary required and assigned work, create time for thinking, planning, and strategizing. Encourage acting on new ideas, improving existing processes, and pursuing special projects. These side projects can often be the route to more challenging work, expanding responsibilities, new revenue streams, as well as retention and satisfaction.

Eva Rykrsmith

Eva Rykrsmith is an organizational psychology practitioner. Her passion lies in bringing a psychology perspective to the business world, with the mission of creating a high-performance environment. Follow her @EvaRykr.

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