The Problem With Micromanaging

Have you ever heard the term microleading? I doubt it but if you have you should recognize it as an oxymoron. Like “I worked all-day one night.” 

 

Micromanaging is exactly what it says it is, microMANAGING. It’s when someone in a leadership position not only tries to manage a person but they manage even the smallest details of that person’s job. 

 

But micromanaging isn’t really the problem, it’s merely a symptom of a much bigger issue. The bigger issue is that there is someone in a leadership position trying to manage another human being. 

 

You see, managing is about stuff. You can manage budgets, you can manage inventory, you can manage buildings and plans but you cannot manage people. Basic human instinct drives us to resist being managed and and also makes us virtually crave being led.

 

Leadership is about people, people and only people. 

 

If you’ve found your way into a leadership position, no matter how you got there, your number one responsibility is to and for the people you lead. 

 

The real problem with micromanaging is not the “micro” part, it’s the managing part. In a weird twist, the “micro” part actually magnifies the fact that the person is being managed and not led. 

 

Managing a person is like asking them to swim laps while wearing handcuffs. They may some how pull it off but you’ll be greatly limiting their effectiveness. Notice I said “you’ll” as in you, the leader, will be limiting their effectiveness. 

 

Most every issue a person in a leadership position has with their people likely stems from the fact that they are trying to manage them. A managed person’s morale, creativeness, willingness to take risks, and motivation to push themselves are all pressured by being managed; when they are micromanaged those same things are crushed. 

 

I might be naive but I don’t think most micromanagers mean to do that type of harm. But there isn’t much difference between intentional harm and unintentional harm. If you’re micromanaging your people your harming them by limiting their growth. 

 

Authentic Servant Leaders know that they don’t really grow their business, they grow their people and their people then grow the business. When you limit the growth of your people you’re also limiting the growth of your entire organization. 

 

Trust your people! Unleash their potential by leading them, not managing them. Motivate them, coach them, teach them, and care for them. 


Authentic Servant Leaders understand that their people aren’t assets, they are not capital, and that they are not machines. They know that their people are human beings, real live human beings who have goals and dreams, they know that they are people who need to be led, not managed. 

When Your Boss is a Micro-Manager

There are many challenges associated with working for a micro-manager. When you work for a micro-manager it makes it much more difficult for you to learn the skills needed to succeed. It makes it far more of a struggle to develop your instincts and judgment, two traits that will be required for you to make sound decisions as a future leader. Working for a micro-manager can make you hesitant and kill your self-confidence.

There are two main reasons people micro-manage. One is that they don’t trust their people. Their lack of trust stems from a lack of self-confidence, they don’t trust that they have put the right people in the right places. If they can’t trust themselves they most certainly can’t trust anyone else.

The other reason people micro-manage is a true, pure love for the business or organization. They want and need to be involved, they enjoy being involved. They are passionate about all aspects of the operation and they just want… no they need, everything to be right. If anything, perhaps they “over-care.” They mean no harm and they just don’t understand that they are in a way stealing your “ego food.”

Either way there are truly a ton of issues when it comes to working for a micro-manager. It just isn’t the best situation to be in.

But so what?

None of those issues, not a one of them, should be used as an excuse to not try. Doing nothing and then blaming a micro-manager for YOUR lack of productivity is on you, not the micro-manager. There is not a micro-manager in the world who can prevent you from taking action. They cannot prevent you from making decisions. They can’t stop you from thinking and being creative. They can’t steal your self-confidence …. unless you allow it. 

They can overrule anything and everything you do but you can keep trying. You can stay positive, you can press on. The best, most productive method for working with a micro-manager is to lead up. Lead up by making good decisions, being proactive, leading yourself well and making a choice to maintain control over your attitude and confidence level. 

Making good decisions, being proactive, and displaying a bit of confidence will all contribute to earning the trust of even the most micro of micro-managers. Unless your boss is a complete wacko you’ll earn not only the trust of your boss but a little more room to grow as well.

If your boss is the second type of micro-manager then share in their passion, engage and connect. Show your own passion for the organization, help them build the business and fill the leadership gaps created by the growth. Don’t expect a micro-manager to give you room to grow but don’t be surprised when they let you make your own room.

There are plenty of opportunities to thrive under a micro-manager so long as you don’t use being micro-managed as an excuse to sit on your hands and pout. Micro-managers don’t manage your attitude, you are always responsible for that.

If you’re blaming a micro-manager for your lack of growth then you had best take a look in the mirror because it’s likely your bigger problem is the one staring back at you. You may not like hearing that but you need to come to grips with it if you hope to succeed in the future.

By the way, if you do have the misfortune of working for a person who simply will never give you the opportunity to grow then you must stop complaining and lead yourself to better employment. That too is a choice only you can make!

 

Today’s Biggest Leadership Challenge – Part Two

Now that you have your mentoring program underway let’s look at the other significant leadership challenge of today. 😀 I joke about already having your mentoring program started but I don’t joke about this: do not delay in getting started with developing tomorrow’s leaders; this workforce issue is going to overwhelm organizations that aren’t prepared to deal with it. Don’t be one of the many who are surprised that this issue overtook them so fast.

The second major challenge facing today’s leaders is micro-managing. Those of you who believe you are micro-managed should not get too excited here. This is not just going to be a recommendation for today’s leaders to stop micro-managing their people. This is about tomorrow’s leaders not allowing themselves to be micro-managed. 

I’ve worked for micro-managers at different points in my career but I’ve never really felt micro-managed. I always listened to my micro-manager (they deserve that respect) and then I always tried to do the right thing. When the right thing worked and it was different from what I was told to do I either heard nothing or I heard I was lucky or if I was working for a leader (yes, even good leaders can fall into the trap of micro-managing) I might have heard “good job.”  When what I thought was the right thing to do didn’t work I heard how I had screwed up. I got yelled at, I felt bad. I might have even embarrassed myself, but I survived. And I learned, I grew, and I discovered why my boss might have felt the need to micro-manage me. 

Here’s my point, the real problem with micro-managing is not only with today’s leaders who micro-manage, it is with tomorrow’s leaders who use it as an excuse to NOT make decisions and an excuse to not begin leading today. They say they “are not allowed” to make decisions and once they convince themselves of that it is certain that they won’t be making meaningful  decisions anytime soon.

The reality is that even in the most micro-managed organizations 85% of all decisions are made below the top levels of an organization. If you’re a true future leader you have ample opportunity to practice your decision making skills no matter where you work. You only have to risk getting yelled at. Okay, so maybe you have to risk losing your job but if you can’t truly thrive in the role you’re in then maybe you don’t want that job anyway. 

If you have the courage required to lead then you also have the courage to make decisions, whether you work for a micro-manager or not. You may not have the authority to move on major decisions but you can still learn effective decision making by making every lower level decision possible.

If you work for a leader who micro-manages they might be limiting their own leadership potential but they can only limit yours if you let them. Don’t let them!

A couple of final thoughts for the leader of today who is sincerely interested in developing the leaders of tomorrow.

If you’re a micro-manager then stop. If you can’t completely stop (and if it was my behind on the line I might find it hard to stop too) then stop a little. If you’ve never had a serious disagreement in your team meetings then you should recognize that as a warning sign that your future leaders are just sitting back and silently letting you decide everything. You cannot develop future leaders that way. 

Encourage debate, encourage the airing of different viewpoints, be quiet, force the opinions out of your people. If you have the right people in the room they most certainly have opinions and many of those opinions will be different than yours; it’s the job of the leader to make them feel safe enough to share them.

This much is certain, you will not find your organization’s next generation of leaders by watching them listen to you. 

 

Massacre by Micromanaging

“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!