Moving from micromanager to a multiplier is one of the best shifts you can make as a leader. It can be hard to admit we are micromanagers. It is common to have a blind spot about this character trait.
Earlier this week, a manager sent me an email asking me to write about micromanagers. She says that since COVID, her leader and her company have become micromanagers and she was looking for tips on how to deal with it. I immediately emailed her back, thanked her for the request and confirmed that I would write something. I also suggested that people who aren’t usually micromanagers can often take on that characteristic if they are feeling like they have lost control.
Right now, it is pretty easy to feel a loss of control, but it isn’t an excuse to micromanage your team. I have been guilty of this myself in the past and appreciated when someone explained why I was able to be so trusting 98% of the time and the other 2% of the time, when I feel a loss of control over a situation, I reverted to micromanaging my team.
It can be hard to hear and even harder to admit to yourself that you have this character flaw. The good news is that this isn’t a fatal flaw and can be addressed, if you choose to.
No one likes to be Micromanaged
You will be hard pressed to find a single person who wants to be micromanaged. It is demotivating to the person or team. Most leaders don’t realize they are doing this, its what we call, a blind spot. Yet the signs are so clear to everyone else!
See if you have you ever demonstrated these behaviors:
- Believe you always can do something better than your team
- Edit every little thing they write so you can feel like proud at what you add to everything that comes across your desk
- Want to be cc’d on every email
- Need to know where everyone is at all times
- Want to see what everyone is working on
- Require frequent updates
”It’s Just Being Attentive to Details”
Don’t get me wrong. Attention to the details is important especially when you are accountable for the results. And a lot of this might be part of managing a team. The red flag goes up when you are doing this ALL the time.
It’s easy to think that micromanaging is what has made you successful but here is the truth…it has a negative impact on your team, on you as a leader and your team won’t grow under this type of leadership.
Now, my goal isn’t to beat you up if you have been micromanaging, so let’s talk about 4 strategies that can help you stop micromanaging.
Strategies to STOP micromanaging others
I love these 4 strategies that HBR shared in an interesting article about micromanaging.
Strategy #1: Get Over Yourself
We can all rationalize why we do what we do and the same holds true for micromanagers. Here are some common excuses that chronic micromanagers give, and what they really mean:
These excuses lead to a disempowered, demoralized team. Instead of finding all the reasons why you should micromanage, consider why you shouldn’t.
Strategy #2: Let It Go
The difference between managing and micromanaging is the focus on the “micro.” At the core of moving away from micromanaging is letting go of the minutia. This can be hard, but the key is to do it a little at a time. Start by looking at your to-do list to determine what low hanging fruit you can pass on to a team member. Engage in explicit discussions with your direct reports about what level of detail you will engage in and where they will need to pull you in. You should also highlight the priorities on your list — the big ticket items where you truly add value — and make sure that is where you are spending most of your energy.
Strategy #3: Give The “What”, Not The “How”
There is nothing wrong with having an expectation about a deliverable. But there’s a difference between sharing that expectation and dictating how to get to that result. Your job as a manager is to clearly set the conditions of satisfaction for any task you assign. Articulate what you envision the final outcome to look like, but don’t give blow-by-blow instructions on how to get there. When in doubt, share the “what” and ask (rather than tell) your team member about how they plan to get there. You might be surprised that their approach, while different, may yield excellent results.
Strategy #4: Expect To Win (most of the time)
Underlying your need to micromanage is a fear of failure. By magnifying the risk of failure, your employees engage in “learned helplessness” where they start believing that the only way they can perform is if you micromanage them. It’s a vicious cycle. Instead, focus on setting your direct reports up for success. Be clear on what success looks likeBe clear on what success looks like. Provide the resources, information, and support needed to meet those conditions. Give credit where credit is due. Over time, you’ll realize that a loss every now and then helps build a strong track record in the long run.
You Can Do This!
No one wants to be micromanaged and no one wants to be called a micromanager. One of the things that helped me move past this character flaw was partnering with a trusted colleague to get their honest perspective and partnership. I also gave my team permission to let me know when I was demonstrating the behaviors.
Is your Boss a Micromanager?
So far this article has been focused on the micromanager. Now I want to transition to how to handle having a micromanager for a boss.
First, understand what you can and cannot control. You cannot control the other person but you can control your response to them.
Second, ask them what they are seeing that is causing them to be concerned. Ask them, “What is the result you are trying to get that you aren’t getting right now”?
Lastly, you can control the quality of your work. Give yourself a timeline to get the work done ahead of when they want it and do a little bit more than what is asked of you.
It is easy to just quit your job but the truth is, you will run into bosses who struggle with control and micromanage their teams everywhere you go. Don’t let a poor leader scare you away. Learn to address the situation. If you have an open and trusting relationship, talk to them about how you are feeling.
Shift from Micromanager to Multiplier
Let’s transition one more time and talk about how a micromanager can become a multiplier. What is a multiplier? It is a person who can bring out the native genius in others. They use their own intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of people around them. Literally the opposite of a micromanager.
Characteristics of a multiplier:
- Talent magnets who attract and optimize talent
- Liberators who create intensity that requires best thinking
- Challengers who extend challenges
- Debate makers who debate before deciding
- Investors who instill ownership and accountability
Lead Like a Multiplier
Here are three simple ways to start leading like a multiplier.
1. Go from having all the answers to asking good questions. Asking insightful questions can get your team to think for themselves instead of just doing what you say.
2. Provide your ideas in small chunks. This allows the team to contribute and build on the idea, developing them!
3. Have high expectations and expect fully completed work. Don’t correct their work, challenge them to be fully accountable to the outcome of their work. Jumping in and fixing the work every time might make you feel good in the moment but in the long run, it doesn’t help build their capability.
Great Read: Multipliers
There is a great book called Multipliers. This book single handedly will help you explore your own ability to multiply or diminish others performance. It is a must read for every people leader.
It’s your Turn
I hope this post gives you the confidence to identify if you are a micromanager, provides tips on how to work with someone who demonstrating those behaviors and what to do to shift to being a multiplier.
Hope you enjoyed the read. Share this with friends and colleagues. Remember, life is a journey, not a sprint. You got this!
Always in your Corner,