With the possible exception of a comic book villain, no one starts out in leadership intending to become a micromanager. Most people who lead a team want to create a healthy work environment where everyone can grow, learn, develop, and create value.
Sometimes, however, bad habits have a way of sneaking into our management style. Times of stress may mean we fall into negative patterns that become tough to let go of. A major shift in work or business models may leave us feeling nervous or threatened, or the pressure to “produce” may result in micromanaging our team members.
Even seasoned leaders may find themselves micromanaging critical projects or those that have organization-wide visibility. While it may seem best at times to dictate every detail, micromanaging tends to create a lower quality result as it destroys individual initiative and overall engagement. You can avoid those negative outcomes by developing these three simple habits that will keep you from being a micromanager:
Establish the what, but leave the how up to the individual
Your job as a leader is to be very clear about what needs to be done but to leave the how up to your employee. Define tasks clearly by putting them in writing. Provide examples of similar products or deliverables. Most of all, encourage clarifying questions from your team.
And then? Be quiet.
Once you’ve defined the what, back away and give your team members the space to figure out the how. Everyone has a unique way of working, and if you have the confidence that your people are talented and capable, you can stand back and let them work as they see fit. You may enjoy seeing the creative ways your team works, and you may learn something new!
(For more tips on how to delegate, read our blog post, The Power of Why in Delegation.)
Avoid surprise check-ins or follow-ups
People don’t like that “gotcha” feeling that can come from surprise check-ins, especially if they come before agreed-upon deadlines. Instead of springing sudden check-ins on your team, define a checkpoint schedule and a deadline so that people know what to expect.
It’s especially important to invite your team members into the scheduling process. You may have a deadline in mind, but your team may have insight as to why your deadline won’t work. Maybe your timeline is too short, or maybe your team member can complete it sooner than you think.
Also, consider that people work in different ways. Define what you expect during your check-in. Do you want to see a document draft? Do you just want a verbal assessment of how the project is going? One team member may prefer to write something out or send an e-mail, but another may need a phone call or meeting.
Most of all, work with your team member, not against, so that you both have some input into the process and can establish clear expectations and deliverables. Working with your team members builds trust and connection.
Praise more than reprimand
It can be easy to get stuck in a routine of calling out mistakes or failures and using them as examples of what not to do. Instead of focusing on failures, look for times when people are doing things right and call those out. Catching people doing great things will contribute to a positive outlook and help create an environment of empowerment. Your positive reinforcement will have an inevitable effect across the company as everyone begins to recognize good things to praise.
Remember that much of good leadership relies on building trust between employees and managers. In an environment where team members and their leaders trust each other, micromanagement is less common, and everyone is more likely to thrive and grow. Try these three suggestions in your leadership role. You’ll build a foundation of trust, empowerment, and productivity, and you’ll develop good habits that will help you avoid becoming a micromanager.