Being a good manager is no easy task. Not only do you need to provide vision, goals and guidance for your team, you also need to give them the freedom and autonomy to take on projects, learn new things, and be the best they can be.
If you excel at providing tasks, parameters and instructions but insist on hovering and every part of the process, you’re only halfway there. And halfway there never wins the race. In this case, however, halfway might just earn you the not-so-glorious title of Micro-manager Extraordinaire.
According to Merriam Webster, the definition of micro-manage is to control or manage all the small parts of something (such as an activity) in a way that is usually not wanted or that causes problems. In other words, you’re driving everybody nuts.
Beyond the crazy-making factor, there are some real risks associated with micro-managing, the effects of which can be detrimental to the progress of your organization. Even if you genuinely love your team and have only the best intentions at heart, constant micro-management can have serious, long-term consequences on productivity and morale.
It brings your team down
When staff members aren’t allowed to manage and execute their own projects, they don’t feel like a trusted part of the team, and without trust and autonomy, it’s impossible to take ownership of the work. Constantly following orders and being directed (and re-directed!) leaves people feeling demoralized and unmotivated. Creativity and energy levels will drop as once excited employees realize their job is simply to check off the boxes. Striving for excellence will be a thing of the past, and mediocre will be the new order of the day.
Morale tip: Define who is responsible for each project and when it needs to be completed. Provide clear end goals, but be open to alternative ways to achieve them. Show confidence in your team. Resist the urge to constantly pull out your checklist and ask how things are going.
It squashes new ideas
The key to improving processes is recognizing that your way (or the established way) is not always the best way. This is especially true in today’s lightening-paced workplaces. Focusing on keeping every tiny detail the same from project to project, day to day, and year to year will only stunt individual, team and organizational growth. Releasing yourself from a particular task, and your expectations about exactly how it should be done, just might result in some amazing new finds.
Creativity tip: Instead of checking in with your team at every step along the way, set a mid-project meeting to touch base and another one closer to the desired completion date to make sure nothing’s falling through the cracks. Most importantly, schedule some time to de-brief the project after it’s complete. The de-brief is where processes can be shifted and re-defined based on what worked and what didn’t. Celebrate what went well and listen to feedback on what can be improved.
It holds you back
If you’re in a management position, it’s probably because you have some pretty high level skills and experience. The thing is, your talents are wasted if you choose to spend all of your time checking, re-checking or taking over other people’s projects.
How many things on your own To Do list aren’t being touched? How many extra hours are you putting in trying to do your work and everyone else’s?
Not being able to let go not only leaves your team feeling frustrated and less than useful, it greatly raises your risk of burnout. And that’s not good for anyone.
Productivity Tip: Hire great people and let them go! Delegate projects in a way that allows you to feel confident in the process. If you’re worried about one person being able to get the job done, assign it to a department or team.
Learn to Let Go
Your team members are there for a reason. Heck, you probably hired many of them yourself. Trust that you made the right choices. Resist the idea that you alone are responsible for results. Rely on the people you’ve surrounded yourself with and give them permission to shine. Then give yourself permission get out of the weeds. Your job is important, and focusing on your own work will allow you and everyone else the freedom to breathe easier, work smarter, and feel like an integral part of the team.
Photo by Tsung-lin Wu