Like many people in the tech industry, John Breen, lead software engineer at Washington, D.C.-based healthtech company Laerdal Labs, hated being micromanaged. “It’s not gonna win you any friends or help you build loyalty,” he said. Rather than feeling accomplished, he felt inadequate and like he couldn’t be trusted to complete tasks on his own.

Now in a management role, Breen understands where the instinct to micromanage begins — it comes from a place of fear. That realization led Breen to start building more trust with his direct reports. “Trust is the foundation of everything,” he said. “You have to trust that people are doing the best they can.”

In general, micromanagers:
  1. Resist delegating.
  2. Immerse themselves in overseeing the projects of others.
  3. Start by correcting tiny details instead of looking at the big picture.
  4. Take back delegated work before it’s finished if they find a mistake in it.
  5. Discourage others from making decisions without consulting them.

3 Easy Ways to Stop Micromanaging | Galen Emanuele | #culturedrop

What is micromanaging?

Micromanaging is a style of leadership where a supervisor closely observes or controls the work of those who are under them. Micromanaging is often characterized by closely watching an employees work and providing frequent feedback on their processes and work. This management style can produce short-term results because it ensures employees are doing the work in the manner that the manager wants, but in the long term, it affects employee and company morale. Employees often feel that the manager doesnt believe they are capable of doing their job, which can result in higher company turnover.

How to stop micromanaging

If you suspect that you are micromanaging your team, here are steps you can take to stop:

1. Reflect on your behavior

The first step to stop micromanaging is to become aware of why you micromanage. For example, you may be concerned that if your team performs poorly, it will reflect badly on you. Shift the narrative in your head and focus on the reasons why you should avoid micromanaging and the benefits you will receive by stopping. For example, if you stop micromanaging, your team will learn and grow and will become more confident in themselves. You may see a vast improvement in morale as well.

2. Ask for feedback

Gather confidential information from your team or ask a coworker you trust for honest feedback on your performance. This can help you obtain a clear perspective on how significant the issue is and what your team members think. This step is critical for understanding the broader impact that your micromanaging has on your team.

3. Prioritize what matters

When youre deciding what work to do yourself and what you should delegate, evaluate where your involvement is critical. For example, leadership must be involved in strategic planning. Conversely, proofreading a presentation is not a task that managers need to be involved in. Evaluate your to-do list and identify which items you must be involved in and which you could distribute to other members of your team.

4. Communicate priorities to your team

Once you have identified the highest priorities for you, the next step is to communicate them to people on your team. Communicate to them how often you would like updates on specific projects and be direct about the level of detail you will engage in on those projects. Also, offer your support with questions like, “How can I help you? Do you feel you have the support and resources you need?”

5. Set your team up for success

Before delegating responsibilities, assess whether the team is capable of accomplishing those tasks. Be honest with yourself about their abilities and only assign tasks that you know someone is capable of being successful with. With every project, equip and inspire your team to be successful and grow.

6. Set clear expectations

When you are assigning tasks to members of your team, be clear about the expectations for the project from the beginning. For example, communicate what success will look like and, if possible, provide examples. Make sure you let them know if there is a specific timeline for when you need something completed. Let them know if there are tracking measures and goals they need to be achieving for projects or their overall performance.

7. Step back slowly

It can be challenging to stop micromanaging in the beginning, so you may want to consider stepping back from those habits slowly. There are several ways you could do this. One way is to start with a less urgent project or of lesser importance. This allows you to see how they perform when you arent heavily involved.

Another way is to delegate a project and then inquire from other managers or coworkers how the project is going. This can give you the information youre looking for, reassuring you that everything is going fine, without requiring you to go directly to your team. Its also a good idea to request more frequent project updates when you are first stepping back from micromanaging.

8. Remove yourself physically

If your desk or office is within proximity of your employees, you may want to consider relocating or, at the very least, closing your door. By delegating responsibility to members of your team and then physically removing yourself from the vicinity, you will reduce the likelihood that youll be tempted to interject and tell them what process to follow.

9. Build trust

Be prepared for your team members to come to you more often in the beginning when you stop micromanaging and let them take over control and projects. Let them know that you believe in their ability to take on the challenge.

10. Provide constructive feedback

When a project is complete, provide constructive feedback. Everyone wants feedback, so emphasize for the different team members what you believed was most successful within the project and where you see room for improvement. Providing immediate feedback can make a difference in how your employees accomplish tasks and feel about their performance.

FAQ

How do I stop being micromanaging?

How to deal with a micromanager
  1. Put yourself in their shoes.
  2. Build their trust organically.
  3. Overfeed them.
  4. Coach up.
  5. Establish expectations.
  6. Talk it out.
  7. Mirror your boss’s behaviour.
  8. Ask for forgiveness instead of permission.

What causes someone to micromanage?

Why do people micromanage? According to the Harvard Business Review, the two main reasons managers micromanage are: They want to feel more connected with lower-level workers. They feel more comfortable doing their old job, rather than overseeing employees who now do that job.

Is micromanaging a form of anxiety?

By micromanaging, you’re trading your short-term anxiety for long-term trouble. A team that is micromanaged will not perform as well as a well-trained and well-staffed team that can use its expertise to get things done.

What are the signs of a micromanager?

7 signs of micromanagement
  • Not seeing the wood for the trees. …
  • Every task needs approval. …
  • An obsession with constant updates. …
  • Difficulty delegating. …
  • The need to be cc’d into every single email. …
  • Over complicates instructions. …
  • The belief that no one is else is capable.

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