Leadership

You might be a micromanager if. . .

Do you feel like you have to have a hand in everything your team members do? If so, you may be sending the signal that you think the people you manage can't be trusted to do a good job on their own.

If you manage a team of smart, energetic people who know their jobs and have proven track records, but you insist on telling them what to do anyway, then…

…you might be a micromanager.

If you can’t stand for anyone on your team to attend a meeting without you or have any meaningful interactions with other employees without having you butt in, then…

…you might be a micromanager.

If your team suffers from low morale and high turnover because no one wants to work with you, even though you repeatedly showcase your expertise by second-guessing everyone on your team, then…

…you might be a micromanager.

It’s no joke! A micromanager is one of the most frustrating and demoralizing forces in the workplace. He has to make all the decisions, set all the priorities, and do all the talking. He has to sign off on every document and communication emanating from his team and has to attend every meeting that anyone on his team attends. He makes sure the spotlight is always on him and is quick to accept credit for team accomplishments. He is just as quick to assign blame to some individual on his team when something doesn’t go exactly right. He wastes valuable time on activities that others can handle without him, while many of his real responsibilities get shortchanged.

One of the micromanager’s main concerns is self-promotion. Somewhere in his past, he was woefully misinformed that a management role was an opportunity to gain personal recognition for work done by others. To justify this recognition, he supervises work needlessly or invades meetings where he isn’t needed, all to put his thumbprint somewhere on the project.

If this sounds like you, consider this: Coaches of champion sports teams don’t score points. They teach, facilitate, plan, lead, and fill other management roles that are critical to the team’s success. Your team needs the same contribution from you. Even though many technical managers keep their hands in the work to some degree (if you work for a smaller company you probably have to do a lot of the work yourself), you aren’t expected to personally accomplish much of your team’s mission. So it doesn’t make sense to put your energy into trying to make it look like you do.

Micromanagers insult the intelligence of the people they manage. It might be appropriate to closely supervise a crew of 15-year-olds around a deep fryer if they’re working for the first time in their lives. But mature, competent, trustworthy employees perform at their best when they have a great deal of trust and freedom extended to them.

Technical professionals, in particular, tend to have a high degree of pride in their skills, and most of them welcome the accountability that comes with self-direction. The micromanager sends the signal that the people he manages can’t be trusted to do a good job on their own. Because he is always making decisions that could and should be made by others, he creates the perception that he’s the only one on the team capable of any competent thought or contribution. That message is disheartening to team members and misrepresents their capabilities to the rest of the company.

If you suspect your management style might fall into this category, do yourself a favor and make some changes. Save yourself some valuable time by getting out of the business of supervising the day-to-day activities of people who will do a fine job without your interference.

Save more time by letting them attend meetings without you and letting them make decisions that they’re perfectly qualified to make. Spend that time learning to become a better manager and leader. Recruit a mentor, read some books, attend training sessions—there are plenty of ways for you to begin learning what managing people is really all about.

Then, if one or more of the people you manage proves to be incapable of doing acceptable work without your constant supervision, do something about it. Get them additional training, assign them a mentor, redeploy them into a role they can perform, or let them go. But, if they can do the work without you, let them! They’ll be happier and more productive, and you’ll be more successful as a result of their success.

Mark Kimbell is president of Kimbell Associates LLC, a business improvement firm. He is also the author of The HOD Carrier: Leadership Lessons Learned on a Ladder.

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