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  • Writer's pictureBahar Önderol

Unlock Your Leadership Potential by Escaping Micromanagement 🌟




When collaborating with managers, I frequently encounter the following grievances:

  • "No one in my team takes ownership or responsibility for their work." 🤔 

  • "Quality suffers if it's not under my direct control."

  • "Constantly feeling the need to control and manage for things to be done my way."

  • "Team members come to me for every problem, showing little initiative for self-improvement."


Sound familiar? Your fundamental issue might be your management approach—you could be caught in the micro-management trap!


Micro-management is a managerial style that fixates on the minutest details and insists on constant control. Managers embracing this approach desire tasks to be executed precisely as they envision, leading to ongoing supervision, intervention in task execution, and ultimately resulting in a decline in team morale and productivity, potentially prompting individuals to consider leaving their positions. According to Trinity Solutions' micro-management survey, a staggering 69% of participants contemplated changing jobs due to micro-management, with 71% acknowledging its adverse impact on job performance.


Curiously, most managers practicing micro-management either remain oblivious to their counterproductive approach or believe there's no superior management style for accomplishing tasks. They may be contemplating, "I've attained this position using this management style. Why change now?"


However, the very strengths we attribute to our success can, over time, transform into limiting factors, impeding our advancement. Even if a manager recognizes the issues stemming from the micro-management style, relinquishing perfectionism, overcoming beliefs hindering trust in others to fulfill their responsibilities, and breaking the habit of excessive control can be challenging. Therefore, seeking external support (from peers, subordinates, superiors, executive coaches, etc.) can prove beneficial. I have shared practical recommendations that I believe will help them during the challenging process of “escaping the micro-management trap and developing new leadership approaches” in this article.


If you suspect you have tendencies towards micro-management, I recommend first examining Hersey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership Model. This model is based on the idea that a leader should apply four different leadership styles based on the maturity level of the employee regarding a particular task to obtain the highest performance from the team. The first style in the model is the "Directing" style, suitable for beginners or those lacking knowledge and skills. This style is close to micro-management as it suggests providing instructions and constant control. However, the "Directing" style should not be interpreted as the manager constantly hovering over the subordinate's shoulder.

AGREE ON CONTROL POINTS

In the Directing leadership style, the leader and the subordinate agree on specific control points at the beginning of the assignment to monitor progress. This way, it is possible to control the progress of the work without demotivating the person by giving them space. However, it is essential to decrease control as the employee's competence in the task increases! Without granting the freedom to choose how to perform the job, you cannot expect your subordinate to take responsibility for the results.

DELEGATE

You must also allow your subordinate to take reasonable risks for their development and learn from mistakes as their competence and commitment levels increase. As competence and commitment increase, you should transition from a directive to a supportive behavior and eventually delegate when your subordinate is competent enough to work independently. Changing your leadership style in this way provides the best support for the employee's development. Delegating also allows you, as a manager, to focus on strategic tasks, contributing the most to your organization and showcasing your real value.

ABANDON PERFECTIONISM

Be cautious! Your perfectionism might emerge as a saboteur during the delegation stage, telling you, "They can't do it as well and quickly as you can; it's better to do it yourself." In this situation, don't act hastily. Take a moment to think! Consider the long-term gains from delegation and how it will impact your subordinate's development. CEO consultant Jim Schleckser advises, "If your subordinate can perform the task at least 70% as well as you can, delegate it." Remember, when you spend your time on tasks that your team can handle, you are not using your time effectively, which negatively affects your job performance.

YOUR TEAM NEEDS YOUR TRUST

Do you think that “I can't trust anyone to handle this; it will look bad if the work isn't done right?” Yes, your subordinates may be unprepared in terms of education or experience for certain things. However, there are likely many things you can entrust to them, especially if you approach them with an appropriate leadership style. You may not trust them due to past bad experiences. Instead of letting these experiences prevent you from delegation, learn from them. Analyze mistakes you made, such as selecting the wrong people or not clearly expressing your expectations, and try to do better next time.

FINDING THE RIGHT LEVEL OF MONITORING IS AN ART

While it is true that you are ultimately responsible for the overall success or failure of all tasks in your department, it is also true that when you delegate ownership of tasks, you transfer that responsibility. The last thing you want to do is make your employees feel like you are constantly looking over their shoulders, obsessively controlling their work, and making all decisions yourself. As Lao-Tzu said, When the best leader's work is done the people say, 'We did it ourselves.'


To understand if an experienced and confident employee is on the right track, a few simple questions may be enough. In situations where a less experienced employee takes on a task, you may request plans and reports. Involving your team in this process will also be helpful. During the process, you can make team members feel empowered and supported by asking questions like:

  • "What tasks have I taken on excessively?"

  • "In which areas do you need more contributions from me?"

FOCUS ON RESULTS

While measurements are necessary along the way, instead of managing the details of how the work should be done at a micro-level, focus on what is achieved in the "big picture." Remember, your way is not necessarily the only or even the best way!


Conclusion:

Breaking free from the micromanagement trap will offer you the opportunity to become a more effective and inspiring leader.  Unlock your leadership potential by escaping micromanagement. For this:


  1. Identify your micro-management tendencies.

  2. Build your support network and get feedback from them on the way.

  3. Take steps towards more delegation, abandoning perfectionism, and trusting your team!

  4. Determine the right level of monitoring for the progress of tasks.

  5. Focus on results, not on how tasks are done!


Remember, successful leadership involves not only getting tasks done but also the ability to empower and develop your team. The way to achieve this is through delegation, never through micromanagement. Every step you take to break free from micromanagement will contribute to elevating yourself to the next level in your leadership career.


References:

"Intrinsic Motivation at Work" by Kenneth W. Thomas

"Self Leadership and The One Minute Manager" by Ken Blanchard, Susan Fowler, Laurence Hawkins

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