Calling All Leaders: 5 Ways to Break Your Micromanaging Habit
They work weekends and long hours. They struggle to give themselves permission to take vacations and insist on approving everything themselves. As for delegating tasks? Not their forte—they’re the only one who can do it right the first time. And to ensure they keep control over every project, they mandate being copied on all relevant emails, require that all things be done their way. These are your office micromanagers and, despite being admittedly good at what they do, they are inadvertently damaging business and driving employees insane.
A micromanager is someone who feels the need to control every part (no matter how small) of an enterprise’s activity. According to a Harvard Business Review article, two possible reasons may account for why managers turn into micromanagers:
- They have anxiety or worry over being too disconnected from grass-root efforts.
- They climbed the ranks to get to their management position, and are struggling to let go of their old position.
An article from Forbes points out the third and most obvious reason: These business leaders feel they need a high level of control due to insecurities, or the feeling their workplace is unstable.
Why Micromanaging is Bad for Business
Micromanagers gravely hinder the growth and potential of their entire organization. Employees aren’t given the opportunity to think for themselves, and this affects their confidence.
Top talent cannot thrive in this type of environment, and either fail to reach their own potential or jump ship. Innovation is stifled because mistakes, which are a necessary part of learning and growing, aren’t tolerated. And while micromanagers are busy doing everyone else’s job, they aren’t doing their own as well as they could be.
Recognize yourself anywhere here? You’re not alone—there’s at least a little micromanager in most of us. Luckily, there are also several ways to break the micromanaging habit.
1. Start Small
Depending on how much of a control freak you are, it may be best to take baby steps. Quitting cold turkey isn’t always the best approach and may deter micromanagers from continuing to change their behavior. Also, depending on how long you’ve been micromanaging, your staff may need some time to warm up their critical thinking skills.
2. Encourage Two-Way Communication
Be open to new ideas from your employees. Encourage employee involvement by genuinely welcoming their input, and show them you value their ideas by putting them into action. But beware: Too much consensus can be overwhelming for micromanagers. Don’t allow yourself to scrutinize ideas to death. Set a deadline and practice taking leaps of faith.
3. Work on Your Delegation Skills
Try loosening your grip on employees by assigning a specific portion of a project to an individual or group. Dish out “test” assignments to get more comfortable with your staff’s performance. Be available for guidance, but only if it’s requested. Finally, allow your employees to fail. It’s the only way they’ll learn to think for themselves.
4. Chill Out on the Metrics
Micromanagers tend to over-measure, and advanced technology makes finding information easy. Define a few key KPIs, and stick with them. Data is great, but overusing it can turn into an obsession. Remember: Data only tells a portion of the story.
5. Keep Instructions Simple
Micromanagers tend to over-explain themselves in an effort to control exactly how employees carry out a task. When you delegate a responsibility, cut down your direction and only provide the most essential information. Allow your team members to exercise their own authority.
Don’t forget about the ultimate micromanager’s secret weapon: management technologies (for instance, task management software, time-tracking software and collaboration software). This technology is like camouflage for the micromanager—they enable you to manage all areas of your operation from afar, but without your presence preventing employees from thinking for themselves. Pair these tools with the tips above and you can harness the benefits of your micromanaging brain and adjust behaviors to become the best possible leader for your employees and organization.
Editor's Note: This post was previously published on Inc.com and has been republished here with permission.