Are You a Micromanager? How to Let Go

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Most micromanagers are not the overbearing, control freak egomaniacs we envision when we hear this word. They’re well-meaning, bright people with high standards—people who care a lot about getting things done right.

Many of us have had an experience of being micromanaged—a boss hovering, never quite happy with the work you’re doing, questioning every decision you make, yet never really giving you the reins.

Now that you’re the boss, keep this experience in mind as you ask yourself if you’re micromanaging.

We tell ourselves it’s our high standards that cause us to stay close to every project. And if you have a new employee, that may indeed be necessary. But once that employee is fully trained and up to speed on how things work, your hovering actually hurts productivity, the employee’s growth and your own ability to focus on other things.

Most micromanagers don’t realize they’re micromanaging. But it’s worth some self-evaluation. Remember how it felt to be micromanaged. You spend hours working on something only to have it dismissed or disregarded, making you feel like you’re wasting your time. It can cause you to doubt yourself or feel paranoid. It can make you frustrated or angry. And over time, you may decide to look for a new job … one where they appreciate and trust you to make a few decisions. You don’t want to be the cause of these negative reactions in your team.

Take a minute to assess your micromanaging tendencies by honestly reviewing these signs:

  • You think that you’re smarter, faster and more skilled, says americanexpress.com. This can frustrate you because you think only your way is the right way.
  • You’re always swamped. This might be because you’re not delegating correctly and you’re keeping the important tasks for yourself.
  • When you do give an assignment, you tell the person how to do the work, rather than just stating the goal and what a successful finish will look like
  • You hover, needing to know what each of your employees is working on
  • You want to be cc’d on emails
  • You check in frequently when you’re away from the office
  • You ask for needless updates and reports as the project progresses and at the first sign of trouble, you yank the job back
  • You’re never quite satisfied with the work, suggests hbr.org. This makes people avoid meeting with you, your red pen and exacting standards. Your workers appear timid, tentative and paralyzed when performing even the most mundane task for fear of your irritation and because they’ve made a decision without consulting you first.
  • When an employee makes a mistake, you fix it for him or her. By doing this, you make your employee feel inadequate and paranoid. You also keep them from learning and improving.
  • Employees tell you you’re a micromanager
  • Your team is experiencing high turnover

 

How to let go:

  1. Understand why you’re micromanaging, suggests hbr.org. Are you afraid mistakes will make you look bad? You tell yourself “too much is at stake to allow this to go wrong.” By taking a closer look at when you’re tempted to jump in to save the day, you’ll understand which projects, people or situations are making you anxious.
  2. Focus on letting go of the details. Be clear on where you need to be involved. Let the rest go. Consider which projects your involvement really adds value to.
  3. Talk to your team, so they understand your new priorities, suggests hbr.org. Now that you’ve carefully considered which things make you most anxious, let them know when you want to be involved and how. Clear the way for them by giving them greater access to resources and more authority to make decisions where possible.
  4. Set clear expectations on “what” you need done. (What will the final outcome look like when it’s successful?) Don’t dictate the “how.” If you need help with delegating, check out this article. Let your employees know you trust them to rise to a challenge.
  5. Understand your employees’ capabilities and hire the right people. A new employee might need more input from you. A new project where there’s a lot at stake might also need closer scrutiny. Explain this to those employees so they know your micromanaging is temporary. Here’s an article with more information about situations when closer guidance might be needed. Additionally, if your self-assessment helps you see that your micromanaging tendencies revolve around one or two specific low performing employees, consider whether the situation is being helped (or hurt) by your close attention.

 

There’s a vast difference between being too hands off and micromanaging. Your goal is high productivity and high morale. Take a moment to really assess your management style. Consider what’s causing you to micromanage and take steps to let go, to delegate well and to trust your employees and help them trust themselves.

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