GREAT LEADERS DO NOT MICROMANAGE
Todd Dewett | November 4, 2008
Ok, here comes an unpleasant dose of reality – the average, or typical, leader is a “micromanager.” Micromanaging is defined as excessive and unproductive hovering, monitoring or interfering with employee work. Every leader does it – the only question is how much, a little or a lot. Great leaders use this type of behavior very sparingly and only when absolutely needed. Less than successful leaders overindulge on a regular basis. In which direction do many leaders lean? Unfortunately many err towards micromanaging. In short, you need to know why we fall prey to micromanaging, what problems this creates, and how to avoid it.
The reasons we micromanage include:
- The belief you are smarter than the other person/group
- The belief “they” are not skilled enough to be successful
- A general need for control over work which reflects on you
- A desire for a specific outcome when multiple are possible
- A lack of understanding or appreciation of the need to develop others
The problems micromanaging creates:
- Lower productivity for you since you spend less time working on your tasks.
- Lower productivity for the person or group being micromanaged – since they are dealing with you.
- A long-term resentment that develops since almost no employee likes to be micromanaged.
How to avoid micromanaging:
- Manage outcomes not process. This is one of the golden rules of leadership. Anytime you lead others you must define expectations – including meaningful goals, milestones and metrics. You only begin micromanaging a little when the outcomes you receive are not acceptable. Stated differently, don’t much around in the process unless the process is clearly not creating the outcomes you need. You can stop in, offer support, try to help or provide resources – but don’t micromanage.
- Get good feedback. This applies to the tendency to micromanage and in general to one’s leadership ability. Find one or two unbiased and honest resources and ask them to give you honest and candid feedback. Ask about how others perceive you on a spectrum ranging from “granting lots of autonomy” to “crazy micromanager” and actually listen to what they say.
- Stay away from their cube! Many people took the MBWA (“management by walking around”) mantra too seriously. When in doubt – don’t go bother them, wait and evaluate the outcomes first! If you can’t stand it, break the work up into meaningful milestones up front when planning and assigning work. This way you will receive updates or mini outcomes along the way without having to hover and harass. If the mini outcomes look problematic (not simply “different than how you would have done it,” but actually problematic) then step into the process in an attempt to help – but don’t micromanage!
I know you want to help! However, start by letting them do their work. Help them when they actually need it.