How to Stop Micromanaging

Jan 29, 2013
6 Min Read

Do you expect that anyone who works for you should handle an issue exactly as you would – even if their solution is equally effective?  Does the amount of time spent following up on the work of staff members get in the way of tasks that are a better use of your time and attention?

If you answer “yes” to either of the questions above, brace yourself.

You might just be a micromanager.

Being a micromanager is a real problem because such people often see their careers stymied after chronic complaints from employees. Higher-ups believe their lack of delegation means they can’t be entrusted with bigger projects or responsibilities.

That’s why if you find yourself constantly reversing gears to go back and change work done by subordinates, or believe that delegation doesn't work with your team, then it’s time to make some changes.  If you don’t, you could find yourself losing out on promotions or even being taken off critical projects that you love.

If you know it’s time to change your micromanaging ways, the first thing you have to do is change the way you think about delegation. It can’t be a “sometimes” thing – you either trust your team members to do the work or you don’t. If you don’t buy into the idea that they can do the work and achieve a positive outcome – even if they approach it differently than you do – then you’re just spinning your wheels. The result will be decreased productivity and morale.

That will eventually lead to your own career being hampered because you’ll be seen as difficult to work with, uncollaborative and lacking leadership skills. Employee turnover may even be tied directly to you, and that could threaten your own job.

If you are a micromanager, there are ways to get past such ineffective tendencies. Among them:

  • Asking for input. It’s likely that human resources has heard complaints about you. See if you can get specific ideas about how people feel you’re interfering with their ability to do their jobs. Someone in human resources or a senior mentor may be willing to talk to your direct reports to get a better idea of the problems.
  • Delegation is a two-way street. You can’t just say “I’m delegating this to you” and walk off and forget about it. It’s critical that you outline why you’re selecting the person, why the task is important, the key stakeholders, the authority this person will have and times when you should be consulted. Schedule regular check-ins so that the team member will feel she has back up, and you see she’s getting the job done.
  • Be ready for emergencies. If the project gets too far off-track, you can still step in and be more involved until it’s out of the woods. The key will then be to gradually back off again as things get under control. Don’t use it as an excuse to say “I told you so” and start micromanaging again.
  • Use smarter career development. If you believe you have to micromanage because your team isn’t capable of doing the work, then it means you’re not hiring correctly in the first place or not providing necessary training. Think about setting up internal mentoring situations where more senior members can work closely with junior team members to develop their skills and ensure they meet deadlines. Invest in seminars for team members who need help with time management skills, for example.
  • Set up a regular review process. Again, let senior team members work with others to ensure that projects are being handled on time, and quality controls are in place. The more you let your team be autonomous and handle issues among themselves, the more they will rise to the occasion because they don’t want to be seen as the one responsible for dropping the ball.

The higher you rise in the ranks, the more important it will be that you are displaying leadership skills and not getting involved in the nitty-gritty details that can bog you down. Think of your delegation efforts as a way to develop key skills that will be needed as your career grows.

What are some others tips for micromanagers?

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