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. 

 

How to Develop Your People – Part Two

Most, yes, sadly most, organizations get so busy doing the urgent things that they forget to do the truly important ones. Sometimes they even forget to do the most important thing of all – develop their people. 

I believe it’s most important because when it comes right down to it organizations, companies and teams are about the PEOPLE who make them up. Your company can have the best technology, the best systems and the best process but if it is staffed by overwhelmed and under-appreciated people it will struggle to succeed.

Great companies and great leaders are intentional in developing their people. They build the whole developmental concept right into their business plan. They know that success rarely happens by accident and neither does people development. 

Pull out the plan for your business or organization right now. Go to the section on developing your people….can’t find it? Then get yourself a new plan and get it immediately before you waste anymore time struggling in areas that you don’t need to.

Developing your people begins with an understanding that most people simply don’t know how to be successful. A very few people can succeed by being told what to do but almost all people need to be shown. Most people need a model of success. They need to see successful behaviors in action. They need to see that if they put in the effort that they too might succeed.

How conscious are you of your role as a model for your people? How do you make certain that you are the model they need?

Great companies and leaders know that most people are naturally motivated. YES, you read that right. Most people are motivated until somebody comes along and de-motivates them.

Clearly, no leader in their right mind would do that intentionally but they do it all the same. The number one way to de-motivate a member of your team or organization is to micro-manage them. Micro-managing sends the message that they can’t be trusted. It says they just aren’t good enough to do the job on their own. 

People have a built in need to be valued and trusted; micro-managing sends the message that they are neither. If you feel the need to micro-manage your people there can really only be two possibilities: either you hired the wrong people or you’re not giving them the skills they require to succeed. Micro-managing exposes the weakness of the leader, not the weakness of their people.

Great companies and leaders know that developing their people takes time. There are two types of mindsets in business; one says that we “spend time on” our people and the other says we “invest time with” our people. 

If you see your people as a time “expense” you’ll likely never do what it takes to develop them. If you see your people as an “investment” then you have a chance to develop them into your organization’s leaders of tomorrow. 

Let me be clear about this; if you really want your business to thrive, if you want to build a world class organization then you simply MUST develop your people. It really isn’t optional. 

The most current research available shows that less than 25% of employees describe themselves as “fully engaged” and nearly a third say they are “completely disengaged.” Some may even be “actively disengaged” meaning they actually look for ways to damage the organization.  

Employees who believe they don’t matter and employees who believe they are not trusted tend to disengage pretty quickly. 

Do you really think you can grow your business and be successful when 75% of your people are at best just sort of engaged? 

Do you still think developing your people is optional? 

I didn’t think so!

Delegate the Details!

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The higher up the leadership ladder you go the less detail oriented you should be. If that seems counterintuitive to you then you just might be a micromanager!

This is a clear example of the “what got you here won’t keep you here” kinda thing that many motivational speakers talk about. When successful people first start out every detail matters to them. They know that it’s not really the devil in the details; they know that their success is in the details.

The challenge for these detail-oriented people is that as they move up in an organization the very details that helped them move up are now blocking their view of the bigger picture they should be seeing.

These successful people have clearly learned a lot from the people above them but they missed one huge lesson – leave the details to the people who will follow you into leadership positions.

Great leaders are not detail oriented but they used to be. That’s how they got to be great leaders. What keeps them being great leaders is trusting the people they lead with the details. Leaders set the vision, they pass along the big picture and determine outcomes.

When they delegate they provide coaching and the required outcome. They provide an outline of rules, budgets and resources and then they get the heck out of the way.

Great leaders help build more leaders by allowing their people to handle the details. Effective leadership means letting your people make little mistakes so that when they becomes leaders they won’t make big mistakes.

If you’re a micromanager then you’re costing your organization a lot of money and you are limiting the growth of future leaders. If you’re the top leader in your organization then micromanaging is really expensive. It’s really expensive because you’re wasting your time and your time is more valuable than anyone else’s. If you’re really a leader then you should not be doing a single thing that someone who works for you could be doing. You should only do the things that only you can do.

If you’ve hired the right people, if your people are honest, have integrity and are good stewards of their time then trust them. The outcomes of their actions remain your responsibility but the details are not.

Trust yourself that you have the right people doing the right things. If you can’t trust your people then your people will not trust you. Without trust, there can be no authentic leadership.

With the details out of the way you can see what you’re supposed to see, you can see the future.