How to Stop Micromanaging

In my last post I wrote about the damage done by micromanaging. I could write for hours and hours on this scourge to all things productive. It limits the growth of every type of organization by limiting the growth of it’s people. It kills moral, it kills productivity, it kills profitability and eventually, it kills the organization.

But there is a way to stop micromanaging in it’s tracks. It’s called delegating!

Now as all micromanages will tell you, delegating doesn’t work. They say that if you want a job done right then you must do it yourself.

To all my micromanaging friends I say this: that’s a bunch of bunk!

If you delegated a task to someone and they failed at the task then it’s likely the failure was caused by YOUR poor delegating skills. As a leader you failed to delegate properly and further convinced yourself that you MUST micromanage to ensure the success of your people.

That’s dead wrong and it will lead the to creative death of your people and the financial death of your organization.

Let’s talk about what effective delegation looks like. Before we begin let me remind you that authentic leaders invest time with their people. Poor managers spend time on their people. Effective delegating will require an investment of your time. The good news is that if you do it right, it’s a one time investment for that task.

Effective delegation can be broken down into a seven step process, here are the steps:

1.  Select the Person – As a leader you must first decide who you will be delegating to. You have a couple of choices here. You can delegate to someone you know will get the job done, someone who is already proficient at the task. (This does not ensure success, they still need clearly defined objectives and outcomes to measure their progress and results) You also have the option to truly help someone grow by delegating a task to someone who will have to be pushed well outside their comfort zone in order to succeed.

2.  Plan the Delegation – Next you must plan all details of the delegation. What will be delegated, the deadline for completion, budget and resource requirements. You must also determine how results will be measured. The measurements must be fairly black and white. Opinions cause disagreements, the measurements can’t be based on opinion or emotions, you’ll need facts, figures and deadlines as your measuring tools or you risk a failed delegation.

3.  Meet with the person taking on the task – In the meeting, delegate by explaining what the task is and why it’s important to the organization. Explain the why and how of your decision to delegate to this particular person.

Next, explain the results to be achieved, be very specific here. If you leave “wriggle room” it likely that success will wriggle away.

Explain the rules and limitations of the delegation. Again, specificity is a key here. The person you’re delegating to must know exactly what they can and can’t do. They cannot come back to you for clarification during their task because that gives you an opening to micromanage. Set the guidelines up front, set them firm and make them consistent. Don’t give the person OR yourself any excuse to escape this delegation.

Next set the performance standards for the task. These are the measurements. No gray allowed here, the more black and white the better. When the time comes to evaluate the success of the task you do not want a debate. The outcome, whether or not it was met must be crystal clear to all involved.

4.  Ask for a Plan of Action – The person you’re delegating to should develop their own plan of action. How will they accomplish the task? Can they stay within the rules of the delegation, will it be completed on time?

5.  Review the Plan – The next step is another short meeting where you review their plan with them. This is where the rubber meets the road. If you mess this up the delegation will fail. YOU must be absolutely certain that their plan will result in the task being completed on time and successfully. If their plan will not accomplish the required outcome then you must coach the person to adjust their plan accordingly. Now, here’s YOUR challenge: keep your micromanaging monster in the cave; COACH them to change THEIR plan. DO NOT make this into your plan. They must have ownership.

Here’s another big challenge for you: their plan may be different than the plan you would have developed. Who cares! If their plan will meet the objectives, stay within the guidelines and accomplish the task, then let them go with it. If everything has to be done your way then it’s possible you may just be a hopeless micromanager.

6.  Implement the Plan – The majority of plans fail because they are never implemented. As important as the completion date is to the success of the plan the start date is vital as well. Make certain you have agreement as to when the person will begin. Set a date, even set a time on that date. Specificity is what makes delegation work!

7.  Follow-up – On the date agreed to, meet one final time to assess the results. If YOU didn’t mess anything up the results should be exactly what was required. You have just helped someone grow into a more productive member of the team. You demonstrated exceptional leader’s skills. You and the person you delegated to can now share a great success. Congratulations!

Congratulations maybe…. There are really three possible outcomes to this delegation process. How this delegation will play out is ultimately up to you, the leader.

In my next post we’ll discuss the possible outcomes and how you can impact each one.

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