“The more you use your reins, the less they’ll use their brains” – The Horse Whisperer
This is going to be a post about a killer of professional development, micromanagement. But before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s begin with a basic definition of the topic.
“Micromanagement is a style of management that is characterized by an excessive need for
control and extreme attention to even apparently trivial details.”
Most leaders would accept the above definition as reasonable. Most micromanages would take issue with the term “excessive.” Therein lies the problem.
No one really thinks of the words “excessive” and “extreme” as positive. They bring to mind things like police brutality, abuse or worse. When used to describe a management style, many people envision a boss who has made it a goal to make the lives their direct reports miserable. That’s why so many people have a terrible reaction to being micromanaged and usually cite it as one of the worst management dysfunctions.
Here’s what real micromanagement looks like:
The manager tells direct reports what to do, how to do it and when to do it, giving no latitude to the employee. All decisions, no matter how small, must go through the manager. Delegation of authority is restricted or totally absent, this results in direct reports spending more time reporting on progress than making progress. The “guidance” provided by the manager generally offers minimal incremental value, for instance, nitpicking comments regarding grammatical or typographical errors on documents.
While micromanagement can be caused by a variety of issues it is most commonly just a learned set of negative behaviors that must be unlearned. It is not an easy change to make but it can be accomplished over time with some professional coaching and a serious commitment to make the necessary changes.
Whether you believe the definition I’ve provided you should make no mistake about this: micromanagers literally massacre the morale, motivation and growth of their people. I don’t think there is a worse problem in business today. Leaders who insist on micromanaging are very limited leaders. They have put good people in place but they refuse to turn them lose to excel.
When managers attempt to control every situation, employees become de-motivated (after all, they know their work is going to be scrutinized and reworked by the manager anyway, so why bother trying?) and more importantly, they fail to learn and adapt to new situations, since it is never truly up to them to succeed or fail. This will negatively affect their long-term ability to contribute to the team and ultimately the success of the organization.
Here’s the biggest problem of all with micromanaging; it cripples the development of future leaders. When you as a leader feel that you must control every decision and process you are not developing future leaders. When you fail to develop future leaders you miss the opportunity to experience explosive growth within your organization.
You cannot experience explosive growth in your organization by developing more obedient followers, you must grow more leaders. Leaders DO NOT grow in micromanaged environments.
If you’re not growing leaders then you’re not growing your organization, as least not as fast as you could. You simply must learn to let go. Risk letting your people make some mistakes, they may even learn from them. Maybe they will find a better way than your way (yes, it is possible) of doing something and you can learn too.
If you’re any type of authentic leader then you need to trust that you’ve put the right people in the right spots. If you believe in yourself then you’ll believe in your people. If you can’t do that then you might be able to manage your people but you cannot truly lead them.
Let go to lead!