Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 4, Issue 1;   January 7, 2004: There Are No Micromanagers

There Are No Micromanagers

by

If you're a manager who micromanages, you're probably trying as best you can to help your organization meet its responsibilities. Still, you might feel that people are unhappy — that whatever you're doing isn't working. There is another way.

Despite a wide variety of management styles, most managers have two things in common. They're pretty sure they aren't micromanagers, and most have micromanaged somebody sometime.

I'm glad he isn't my bossSome of us know that we micromanage (or don't); others have some doubts. Here are Four Warning Signs of micromanagement:

  • When you charter a task, you feel a strong need to specify or approve exactly how it will be done.
  • You feel unsure about your understanding of what your people do, but you think you're concealing it pretty well.
  • You require status reports far more frequently than you need for constructive intervention.
  • You're so busy that delays happen frequently, while people wait for your input or sign-off.

You can change only
what you can acknowledge
If two or more of these indicators fit you, you probably feel that you're coping in the best way you can with the shortcomings of the people you supervise. But if their incompetence is a real factor, do something else — micromanagement isn't the answer. Training, transfer, reassignment, or replacement work much better.

Sometimes, simply stepping out of the way works. Usually, if you just let people do their jobs, and let them make some mistakes, you'll be delighted with the results.

If you really want to stop micromanaging, here are six tips to put you on the path to a more peaceful and successful management experience.

Tune in to your own behavior
Becoming aware that you're micromanaging is difficult. Watch for the Four Warning Signs.
Hold a conversation with yourself
You'll be changing your behavior, but you can change only what you acknowledge. Gently, with understanding, tell yourself about your micromanaging.
Choose something different
The only way to change is to change. Promise yourself that you'll do things differently soon, and set a realistic start date.
Tell someone about it
Telling a real person seals the deal. Tell your coach, or tell a close confidant who isn't associated with your position at work. Include your start date and a description of your plans.
Do it
Start managing something small in a new way. When you make a task assignment, tell people the what, and let them work out the how, with help from you only if they ask. Be careful, though, because even if they're complaining about micromanagement, they might be uncomfortable with the change.
Be available to others
When you've made some real progress, look around your organization. Are any of your people micromanaging? How can you guide them in new directions without micromanaging them?

As you carry out this change, take care not to micromanage yourself. Focus not on how you change, but on what you change; not on lapses, but on successes. Remind yourself that there are no micromanagers — there are only managers who micromanage, and they can change. You will be proof of that. Go to top Top  Next issue: Email Antics: Part III  Next Issue

For a survey of tactics for managing pressure, take a look at the series that begins with "Managing Pressure: Communications and Expectations," Point Lookout for December 13, 2006.

For more about micromanagement, see "When Your Boss Is a Micromanager," Point Lookout for December 5, 2001; "Are You Micromanaging Yourself?," Point Lookout for November 24, 2004; "How to Tell If You Work for a Nanomanager," Point Lookout for March 7, 2007; "Reverse Micromanagement," Point Lookout for July 18, 2007; and "Lateral Micromanagement," Point Lookout for September 10, 2008.

Reader Comments

John DeMassi
How about an article on the anti-micromanager (the hands-off manager)? I feel at times that I am providing not enough management to my employees. Obviously, the way you have written this article, I could be in denial. Being who I am and knowing my experiences, I will first doubt that thought.
I actually remember times and situations where I was a micromanaging nightmare. I remember how painful it was to force people to do it the way that I would do it and I even had reasons/excuses why it was the right thing to do at that time.
Now, I try to hire people who can run with a set of tasks and not "bother" me unless the sky is falling. I look for technical equals or potential technical equals. I try to steer a course and hope they stay in my wake. I have found that I cannot choreograph the outcome so I try to set the scene and let it happen with a set of bounds. I have found that change is inevitable. My coach/mentor used to say the goal is in cement but the plan is in sand. I use weekly status reports as a mechanism to get the individual to know what they did and to communicate it to me in a very succinct manner. I want three things. What did you do, what will you do next week and what is in your way.
-- jdm

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