Ok, there’s probably more then one thing you should not do as a leader. But on top of the list is certainly micromanagement. When I interviewed managers from half a dozen countries in a multinational organization about the experience with their best and worst bosses, micromanagement was the worst thing that the worst bosses did.
And it makes sense: you probably don’t like it either when someone tells you all the time how things should be done, and you don’t enjoy your boss’s breath on the back of your neck constantly, checking if this and that is done already or not. No smart person would enjoy that.
However, when you are a leader yourself, you know that it’s a balancing act not to micromanage while at the same time ensuring great results. At the end of the day it’s you who’s being held accountable for your team’s or your organization’s results. When a football team fails, the coach gets fired, not the players.
Getting results without micromanaging your team is critical though for optimum performance, employee engagement, and ultimately your career.
So how do you do it?
1. Let go
Ah, this may be the hardest part. But it’s doable. First of all, bring into your awareness that your way is not necessarily the best. Accept that other smart people have great ideas, too, and that different people have different ways of achieving results. And reminding yourself how much you hate being micromanaged yourself should stop you from micromanaging others instantly.
When results are achieved, does it matter to you how they have been achieved (as long as it’s aligned with corporate values and policies, of course)? If your answer is ‘yes’ you are setting yourself up for trouble!
2. Trust your people
That’s obviously linked to letting go. If you don’t trust, you can’t let go. But it goes deeper than just this: you need to see the potential in the people you work with! It’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy as in the famous school experiment. If you see the potential in people and let them know, they typically utilize this potential. If you as a leader don’t see the potential or don’t trust them, then it’s likely they might stop trusting themselves. Hence it is actually your own attitude and behavior that prevents your people from getting the results you desire.
A great way to encourage and empower people is to demonstrate your trust publicly. Imagine for instance a high level meeting. Why not assign prestigious, important tasks to your team members in front of other senior executives or stake-holders? Such actions can have truly potential-unleashing effects, particularly when a less senior team member is involved. I remember a colleague of mine who turned a whole team’s performance around within one year by never missing an opportunity to demonstrate his trust in his team members.
3. Create a results-oriented work environment
Finally, not micromanaging people means you still need to hold them accountable for getting results. This is actually the easiest part — if done consistently.
Instead of telling people what to do, agree with them on results. Using coaching skills as a leader (which means for the most part you ask them for their solution rather than giving them one), will instill a sense of ownership in your team members. This in itself usually has a highly motivating effect.
Agree with them what milestones need to be achieved by when, offer your support, and make clear to them that they need to involve you immediately if they encounter any obstacles that would prevent them from getting the results in time. Regular follow-up sessions like once a week or every two weeks help both of you to focus on what matters most, and get the work done without being bothered by any kind of micromanagement. You must make clear though that not sticking to your agreement will not be acceptable.
To your success!
I would love to hear from you: what’s your experience being micro-managed? How do you avoid micromanaging others with the daily pressure of getting results fast?