Micromanagement. The word is generally construed as a negative management trait to be avoided at all costs. For hands-on, technical people who have come up through the ranks, it can be a tough trait to shed. But, there are five really good reasons you should embrace your inner CIO and let your staff do their jobs. Here they are:
1. You'll inspire confidence.
Trust begets trust. Do you trust your staff to do their jobs and do them correctly? If not, you have a situation that needs to be resolved:
- Your staff truly doesn't have the skills to get the job done. If this is the case, you need to train your staff or add people with the correct skills.
- You may not have the self-confidence or experience to lead an experienced staff. This can manifest itself in a need to interfere or micromanage.
Obviously, there is a difference between general management and micromanagement, and even the best leaders can sometimes devolve into micromanagement when stress is high, but when you have confidence in your staff, they will know it. No one wants to be micromanaged; people want to work for those who value their contributions and treat them like professionals.
There is also a difference between micromanagement and rolling up your sleeves and working alongside your staff when necessary.
2. You'll get more done.
Every minute that you spend too closely monitoring someone's efforts is a minute that you aren't spending on strategic IT issues that can help propel the organization to new heights. Further, when you're riding someone, their productivity also suffers. As a result, both of you are doing less.
Instead of sitting down with your staff and explaining to them exactly how they should do their jobs, consider a different approach to managing projects. When the need arises for a new project and you've decided to assign the project to one of your staff, provide them with an assignment that consists of:
- A project explanation
- General guidance and expected outcomes
- A project communications plan that provides you with updates in an agreed-upon manner
From there, expect the person to provide you with regular reports on progress and to come to you when there is an exception of some kind or a need for clarification. There's no need to constantly go to the person's office and ask for updates as long as the person is providing you with information at the agreed-upon intervals and milestones are being met.
This frees you up to work on your own work and keeps your staff focused on their work and meeting your expectations. Sticking to the agreed-upon communications plan also works to inspire confidence from your staff since they know that you trust them to be professionals.
3. You'll breed new leaders.
If you're micromanaging people all the time and doing their jobs, they're not getting the opportunity to grow. When you let them do their jobs and hold them accountable to outcomes and expectations, you're helping them work better on their own. By not jumping in and attempting to solve all the problems they may encounter, you force them to seek solutions and answers. Obviously, don't be cruel. If someone is truly at a roadblock that only you can clear, do it. Watching people suffer isn't really fun.
4. Your staff will stick around.
When people have opportunities and can see possibilities, they'll stay. If you're the kind of leader who inspires confidence and trust, people will want to work for you. On the other hand, if you're the kind of CIO who has to push your DBA out of his chair and take over the keyboard to write a query for him, you'll probably see some eventual resentment that will eventually take the form of staff departures, morale issues, and complaints about their horrible boss.
5. You will get promoted.
Many CIOs have come up through the IT ranks and have significant difficulty letting go. I say that from experience. However, I've been fortunate in that, if I do happen to step too far (hey, I'm only human!), they respectfully tell me. I like to believe that they trust my intentions and have enough respect for me to let me grow as a leader as well.
CIOs who have come up through very technical ranks sometimes tend to focus on the technology at the expense of overall company goals. If you're a CIO who has come up through the ranks and you're spending most of your time doing the jobs of your staff members, you're not focusing on being a CIO and will lose the respect of your executive peers.
On the other hand, if you're able to move beyond your technical roots and can help propel the business, your opportunities are endless.
I try to avoid words like "always" and "never" because I absolutely, completely, definitely do not believe in absolutes. In some circumstances, you'll need to break the micromanagement rules for a perfectly valid purpose. But, that should be the exception, not the norm.
Trust your staff and avoid micromanagement to help your staff grow, help the organization better meet its goals, and help your own career.
Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.