Are you a micromanager? How would you even know?
Micromanagement is, at its core, a trust problem. There’s a thin line that divides effective management through measuring and monitoring performance and micromanaging.
You can’t expect new and first-time managers to know how not to micromanage and what kind of effects micromanagement will have on the team. If you’re a new manager, chances are you weren’t even aware that you’re micromanaging your team. Or maybe you received feedback recently that made you ask yourself if you’re a micromanager.
Truth be told, it happens to plenty of new managers. But the good news is it’s something you can change quite fast.
Keep reading the article to learn about:
- What micromanaging is
- What its results are
- How you can stop doing it, and
- How can you instead promote leadership in your team.
What is micromanagement?
Micromanagement occurs when a manager tries to control all aspects of their team’s work — everything from their day to day tasks, the way they do their work, and how they use their time.
Micromanagement fails when it comes to delegation, setting clear expectations, letting go of perfectionism, hiring the right people, and receiving input from your team members on how they want to be managed.
Not sure whether you’re a micromanager? Ask yourself if you were guilty of any of the following signs during the past couple of months when managing your team.
Signs you might be a micromanager
There are a couple of early warning signs that could indicate that you are micromanaging your team members. They are often subtle and easy to miss.
If you find yourself doing any of these, don’t worry. It’s not something set in stone and you can actively work to change it.
Micromanager sign 1: You want super frequent updates on how work’s going
If your team members constantly feel that they need to report every single bit of progress they achieve, you may be micromanaging them. Asking for continuous updates only shows your team that you don’t trust them to do what you hired them to do.
While you should definitely ask your team for reports and updates on a periodic basis, you need to look at them as a “trust, but verify” kind of situation — not an “I don’t trust you to do this right” kind of situation.
Micromanager sign 2: You want to be CC'd on every single email
If you want to be included in every single email, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to be on track with things. Usually, this means that you have an urge to track everything your team members are doing. You want to know who they’re communicating with, what they’re writing, and what they’re trying to accomplish.
This usually stifles creativity and makes the employees risk-averse — to the point that they can’t create anything new.
You should be included in important and essential emails that your team members are sending. But you don’t need to know everything else.
Micromanager sign 3: You constantly correct your team's work
There are a couple of things to take notice of here. If a team member really does a poor job, you need and should correct their work. But if you’re constantly finding yourself correcting your team’s work, then you may be micromanaging them.
If a team member does a really good job, you need to praise them — not take a red pen and start “scribbling” on their work. Not everything has to be completely perfect; it just has to be good enough to be delivered.
Before correcting your team, ask yourself this question: “Is it wrong or just not how I would’ve done it?”
If you’re constantly correcting their work, team members will lose all motivation to do the work. They will feel inadequate because everything they do is “not good enough.” Be careful with this because you can demotivate even the most eager team members.
Micromanager sign 4: You're always looming over the work being done (either in person or in Google Sheets)
When people work, they make mistakes — especially if the work requires creativity and you play around with different things and concepts.
Imagine writing an email. You’ll have sentences you’ll edit before sending, some you will discard, and others that you will add on during a revision.
But if you know that your supervisor is looking at you while you write, your fear and nervousness may come to fruition and you will write not to fail instead of writing to win. Or, if you’re creating marketing materials, you’ll err on the side of not making mistakes instead of being bold and different.
If you find yourself overlooking the process of creation, just imagine how you would feel if your supervisor did the same to you. Let your team go through the process of creating and just look at the final product.
Micromanager sign 5: You're always looking for perfection
This is the most common sign of micromanaging.
If you’re constantly looking for perfection in your team members’ work, you will never find it. Worse yet, your team members will lose motivation to create and work on their own.
Nothing can ever be perfect, and it doesn’t need to be. It needs to be good enough. If good enough is 8/10, then deliver at 8/10, don’t go correcting every single small “mistake” to make it perfect. Never let perfect be the enemy of good.
When you train your team to be perfect, they will know they can never satisfy you. So, they will stop trying and just send the blandest error-free work.
“Shipped is better than perfect.”
If you’re looking for perfection, stop and look for “good enough” instead. Because most of the time, “good enough” is good enough.
Micromanager sign 6: You want to be included in every single small decision that needs to be made
A product that needs to go through 20 different hands to get implemented will be outdated once it gets to the market. Creating a culture of accountability and ownership will make sure that your team members keep the company’s best interest in mind.
So, if they need to make a decision, trust them that they will do the right one. After all, they have all the necessary tools to make it (e.g., company’s rules, regulations, values, and vision). If you want to be included in every single decision, you’re unconsciously showing your team members that you don’t trust them. And where there’s no trust, there’s not much left.
Instead, start by trusting your team members more and let them be autonomous. The results will speak for themselves.
How to effectively lead a remote team while working from home (WFH)
Managers need to trust team members because they were hired to do their jobs. You didn’t hire someone to micromanage them, you hired them to solve business problems and deliver value to customers.
To make sure they accomplish their tasks, you don’t need to micromanage them because that kills trust. By this point, you’ve probably recognized some micromanagement techniques you need to change in your managing style.
For the best results, you need to work on a set of skills that will help you lead your team with trust while promoting leadership. With that in mind, here are five ways to build trust with remote employees.
1. Develop strong communication with your remote team members
Effective communication has become even more important during the work from home transition. It’s essential right now that you attain strong, daily communication with your team members since you no longer work in the same office space and the bulk of company communication relies on email, messaging tools, and Zoom.
Communicating clearly, concisely, and effectively will provide your team members the necessary information to do their tasks.
2. Be active in your employees goal setting
As a manager, you need to invest in your team members’ well-being. It’s that simple.
That means actively working with them in setting their goals. But we’re not talking only about professional and career-oriented goals. You need to care about your team’s entire lives, which means helping them with their personal goals, too.
A team member wants to run a half-marathon? Help them by sending some helpful articles, letting them know great “/r threads” or simply telling them where they can buy awesome running equipment.
3. Provide daily feedback
A person grows if they receive feedback. Positive reinforcing feedback tells you that you did something right and that you need to keep doing that. And learning feedback tells you that you didn’t quite do it right and that you need to learn and try again.
This is how games develop your character. If you deliver on a mission and you gain experience points (i.e., reinforcing feedback). If you don’t deliver on the mission, you don’t get experience points and need to learn from your mistakes and try again (i.e., learning feedback).
When you take the same approach with your team members, you will promote leadership across your organization.
4. Show integrity and transparency in decision making
The best managers lead by example. That’s how you show integrity: You walk the talk. When making decisions, you need to show transparency by letting your team members know what your decision-making process looks like.
If you behave according to the team’s and company’s values and show your team that your decisions follow them, you will have transparency in your decision-making, which will increase engagement.
5. Ask for input from team members (hint: it’s a two-way street)
Great managers know that they can learn quite a lot from their team members.
They don’t behave like a know-it-all. Instead, they ask input from their team members because they know that team members know things that they don’t know themselves. And the more information they gather, the easier it is for them to make a good decision.
Keep in mind that managing is a two-way street, and asking for input from your team members will make the entire process easier.
How will you become an anti-micromanager? Nobody wants to be a micromanager, but it’s hard to avoid micromanaging certain aspects of the office. To avoid falling into that trap, start with trust, and work on developing a self-sufficient team that can make stuff happen.
For that to happen, give your team autonomy and help them make good decisions. This lets them do great work.
Here’s how you can make that happen:
- Set expectations instead of tasks, using objectives and key results (OKRs)
- Leverage audit tools so that your team can measure their own performance, make reporting easier, and stay motivated
- Help them make their own decisions by providing a decision-making framework (e.g., values-based decision-making)
- Give them the power to take actions, and provide them the space to be autonomous
- Encourage them to take the time for “free-thinking” (20% of their time invested on any problem your company needs to solve as long as it’s not part of their everyday work)
- Attain psychological safety so that they feel confident to take risks
If you find out that you’re micromanaging your team members, keep in mind that you have the ability to change the way you manage. Your managerial style isn’t set in stone and you actively work on ceasing to be a micromanager.
Instead of focusing so intently on what everyone on the team is doing every day, spend more time looking at the bigger picture. When you hire the best people, they will take care of the tasks you hired them to do without you having to look over their shoulder all day long.
By showing all of your employees that you trust them to do a good job on their own accord, you can create a happy, inspired team that’s ready to go to bat for you every day. And that’s the ticket to satisfied customers and a healthier bottom line.