Micro-managing! You witness it but how do you stop it?

I have been debating whether to write a blog on this topic – micro-managing.  I don’t know if I am being over sensitive or witnessing it more. I think we all know when we witness it either personally or watching it around us. I know from my standpoint, my strengths and work preference – I do not like it.  In fact, I have left certain positions because I just could not work for a manager that has to work all the time in micro-manager space. So, I figured that I would do some research (dig up old notes, readings and what not) and come up with how to stop it…

 I just completed another management training class on Career Development for Managers. In this class, we discussed about our work orientation and what works well with us and others. One item that was repeated a few times – was how to approach maybe a manager that micro-manages. The simplest answer was to confront the situation head on with your direct manager. Well, that is good if your working relationship is pretty solid. So, for all the leaders out there that maybe afraid that they are micro-mananging – here are five that I found that make sense:

Remember you’re a leader first, expert second. When you coach your team members to best apply their knowledge and skills, you’re leading. After all, they are experts too. You don’t need to have all the answers. Shift from being an expert to an expert leader of people. I was once an ace doer, but over the years my skills and worth to the company is not on the doing end, but on the leading of the doer’s.

Keep to the what, not the how. As a leader it’s your job to assign a problem or task (what has to be done) by clearly describing the desired outcome and all the parameters or constraints that your employees need to work within (e.g., scope, timing, resources, decision-making authority, internal politics). Your team members need to process the information you provide and explore ideas to determine the best course of action. Let them apply their creativity and expertise.

Provide context. Employees also need to understand why their assignment is critical.  Research indicates that people want to be part of something bigger. That connection to customer and organizational benefits motivates them to do their best work. Nothing brings me down faster than not fully understanding the bigger picture. I don’t like being a mushroom.

Ask open-ended questions and listen. Since you’re not directing employees on the how of a task, you need to explore ideas with them. Despite your best intentions you might find yourself talking a lot about your ideas. As a leader, listening is better than talking.

Know when to tell. There are times when there may not be a lot of options or room for new ideas. There are definitely times when, what feels like micro-managing, is needed. Time, money and regulations force certain speed.  What is important is to communicate the why’s…  A simple, “We don’t have the time to explore every single approach, pick two and come back with your pros and cons. We have to have a course of action by the end of the week.”

 Micromanaging is a loss for the organization, a frustration for employees, and a waste of your time as a leader. So, remember that the best way to achieve results may not actually be your way.