How to Stop Micromanaging and flourish as a team

A good leader knows how to guide, not goad, his team to success. She is a teacher not a taskmaster. A coach and not a critic. Sometimes the differences between a good leader and a micromanager are subtle but significant.

Why Micromanaging is Bad for your Team

When you hover over team members and monitor every step of their progress what you’re really saying is that you don’t trust them. A workplace culture based on mistrust ultimately diminishes motivation, autonomy, pride, and engagement. Not only are you selling your team’s capacity short, but by having a hand in every single project your team is working on, you reduce your own capacity for tasks where you can add real value such as strategic insight and planning.

Signs You Might Be a Micromanager

No two micromanagers are exactly the same, but there are some telltale signs you should be on the lookout for:

● Do you struggle to delegate work?

● Are you the default project manager for all tasks and projects?

● Do you zero in on fixing small details before assessing the big picture?

● Are you prone to taking back assignments or projects before they’re completed if you find an error?

● Do you implicitly discourage others from making decisions without your input?

Answered yes to a few of the above? You might be a micromanager. But what’s the problem? The work is getting done and you haven’t had any (major) complaints. What might seem like a reasonably functional team on the surface is often a flawed, inefficient, and uninspired team with a micromanager to blame.

Like any habit, it takes time and focus to break away from old patterns and establish new ones.

How to flourish as a team

Get feedback

In a recent digital article for HBR , Jennifer Chatman, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, suggests that gathering feedback from your team is essential to better understand what your people really think and whether or not it matches your intentions. Chatman recommends undertaking a “cross-evaluation assessment” and gathering anonymous feedback, ideally via a third party, who can aggregate results for true anonymity.

While the results may not be what you want to hear, they are what you need to hear. “[I]t’s critical to understand the broader patterns and reactions and the impact [your micromanaging has] on your team,” Chatman explains.

Evaluate, prioritize, and delegate

To successfully navigate a pivot from micromanager to leader, you’ll need a strategic plan. Start by evaluating which projects or tasks make the most sense to step away from and prioritize projects that require your oversight.

Identify opportunities to delegate and relinquish control over those tasks to your team. This will free up valuable time and energy for big picture projects, planning, and strategy where your skills and expertise are put to better use. As Chatman explains, “Micromanaging displaces the real work of leaders, which is developing and articulating a compelling and strategically relevant vision for your team.”

Communicate with your team

Switching gears from micromanager to pro delegator can be disorienting to your team if you’re not up front about what is happening and why. Remember that they are used to a great deal of oversight and may not be comfortable doing things on their own. Ensure your team has the resources they need to get the work done, and reassure them that you’re still there to provide support as needed.

Communicate how you plan to support more autonomy and independence among team members, but also be clear about expectations. Define how and how often you would like to receive status updates. Ask for input that can help make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone, such as: “What support do you need from me?” or “What suggestions do you have to make this process better?”

Give feedback

Some team members will flourish in this new landscape while others may take time to ease into greater responsibility and accountability. Remember that your team isn’t familiar with this level of trust from leadership and it will take time to build trust in their own abilities. You’re also asking them to trust that you intend to walk the talk on curbing your micromanagement ways.

Since you will have already established a regular check-in schedule, use some of that time to provide feedback and remind team members that you trust them and have confidence in their abilities. This feedback should look very different from conversations you may have had as a micromanager. You’re wearing your coaching hat now, so advice and assistance is less directive and more supportive. The goal is to provide your people with the support they need to complete the task or project on their own.

Even the worst micromanager has good intentions. Somewhere along the way, you just forgot to hand off the baton and give others a chance to run. It’s time to stop, catch your breath, and give others the opportunity to cross the finish line.

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