We all know the tension it creates, yet it continues to be something that we have all experienced. Micromanaging is a leadership trait that damages growth across an organization. Why do we persist in micromanaging when we know that it is an undesirable management style and how can we overcome a tendency to micromanage? Read on to discover the powerful leadership qualities that will prevent micromanaging from damaging your career.

As I looked through my coaching notes recently, I was quite startled ( although not completely surprised), to see a recurring pattern. See if you can spot it in the following examples:

“My staff don’t want to take responsibility. They expect me to make all the decisions, tell them what to do and how to do it”

“My employees are constantly asking me to give them the answers or solve their issues for them”

“There are simply not enough hours in the day to get my work done”

“ I spend most of my time, reminding my staff what their roles are”

It’s interesting isn’t it? Familiar complaints that point to a much bigger question. A question about the true role of a leader within an organization. Is it to have all the answers, to constantly fight an overflowing inbox, to set the boundaries for each employee? These are queries that go to the very heart of what leadership is. What is a leader and how do you lead effectively?

Why micromanagement is anti-leadership

You see, the role of an effective manager or leader within any business is not about having all the answers, or getting involved in day-to-day tasks. The true role of a good leader is to lead – to think and act strategically. To tread the path that the team will follow. A leader must guide their employees to work responsibly, creatively and collaboratively towards the company’s shared vision.

When you dabble in micromanagement, you take your eye off the ball – the one that points ahead. Micromanagement is disruptive. It confuses the complex eco-system of an organisation. Thus, from a business perspective, micromanaging prevent business growth, on every level.

What is micromanagement?

Micromanagement is: “the practice of controlling every detail of a business, especially your employees’ work. Very few owner-managers are ever able to identify micromanagement as a problem.” Oxford dictionary.

As a leader, it is always a constant challenge to find a balance between focusing on your own strategic tasks and ensuring that you oversee your team’s outcomes. One of the best measures is to visualize yourself as the leader, with your team behind you. If you charge on ahead without them, they are simply left far behind. Thus, your focus must be on the team working together in collaboration, rather than the individual. Why? Because the truth is that you both need each other for this to work.

Effective leadership promotes trust

How do you build a collaborative team ethos? Both collaboration and effective leadership are built on trust. Imagine the shepherd that cannot guide their sheep to rich, new pastures. Instead, the shepherd must spend his/her time trying to round up scattered, wandering sheep.

Leadership is about relationships. It is about having good interpersonal skills, such as the ability to listen and communicate. It is concerned with the capacity to be transparent and create safe, supportive environments where every employee feels valued as they work towards a clear vision.

In today’s competitive job market, employees are far savvier. Nowadays, an effective manager or leader must become competent in soft skills, such as the ability to: motivate a diverse team, manage change and build trust. In an ever-changing business landscape, the most powerful leaders know that subject expertise and technical know-how is not enough. Yet another factor in the rise in executive coaching

Therefore, we must evolve, because the contemporary workforce expects leaders that can motivate, support and build community. To ignore the change is to appear out of touch and uncaring. A guaranteed route to high staff turnover and an ongoing lack of experienced, committed team members.

How do you build trust and avoid micromanagement?

Time after time, academic studies show that: staff de-motivation, work dissatisfaction, an inability to trust, manage time or take responsibility, all have their roots in micromanagement.

So how can we change?

Here are my top tips to avoid micromanaging and build growth:

1. Use your time as an investment: Sadly many managers think that teaching and explaining is a waste of valuable time. Instead, the opposite is true. It does take time to be a change agent, educator or motivator, but it is time well spent because micromanaging is based on short-term thinking. When your employees feel confident about their own skills and the team goal, they will thrive.

Make time to actively listen to your team and understand what they need from you. As you invest your time in communication and teaching, you will soon see that your team will deliver a long-term return on investment that is ten times bigger than before.

2. Understanding our own skill-set: Why do so many managers choose to lurk over their employees’ shoulders when everyone knows that no-one likes to be controlled? Well, it often appears to be quicker to do things oneself. For some of us, we fear that letting go of the reins will mean that employees fail or possibly do things better than us. This is a fear that will prevent you from functioning properly as a leader.

Managers are often promoted without receiving any training, mentoring or coaching. As leaders, we need support in our roles too. Therefore, it is no surprise that many of us, muddle our way through our newly acquired responsibilities and end up micromanaging as a form of protectionism against our own insecurities. A reaction because we too, long to be trusted. Therefore, we must ensure that we are equipped with the right tools for effective leadership through solutions such as coaching and mentoring

3. Prioritising the right goals: Often, we are so focused on end successes, that we forget to communicate with our colleagues in a clear, transparent and timely manner. When we forgo communication, neither the process or the end-result are going to be successful.

Instead, when we remember that communication is every leader’s best friend, we can build a positive process that is enriching, smooth and successful. Ensure that every communication has a clear goal and you will quickly build a strong team.

4. Values underpin all we do: If we don’t operate under a solid value system, our decision-making lacks clarity. Without a solid foundation for our decision-making, neither you or our team will be productive. What we need are a strong set of shared values that the entire organization can refer to when making decisions – including yourself.

To forget your own values and prevent colleagues from learning and growing is a blow to yourself. When you are pressed for time, although it may be quicker and more efficient to do it yourself, as a leader you must manage the situation properly. If it is the case that you need to do it yourself, then that is fine, but you must ensure that you communicate with the team in a transparent way.

Explain your decision and use it as a valuable learning experience later on. Better still, invite your team to help you execute the task fully. By operating within your value system and remaining transparent, your decisions will trigger respectful behaviour that fosters learning and growth across your organisation.

5. Stronger together: When we can work as part of a collaborative team where everyone feels valued and secure, our outcomes will be stronger. Collaboration works because it makes use of the entire range of skills that you have across the team. When you allow employees to work with autonomy and confidence, you will enable creativity to flow.

When you encounter a problem, solution-find together and watch how quickly you all grow.

Make your presence count, by cultivating a happy, safe, collaborative working environment built on mutual trust and you are guaranteed to see business and career success.


Previously posted on: Pluma (Executive Coaching & Personal Development)