Micromanaging is never the right way to manage a team of professionals. In fact, it can destroy a company. It demoralizes employees, stresses you out, and can create havoc in a workplace thanks to continual turnover.
For many executives though, we like to drive – or at least be aware of – the integral operational aspects of our company. So how do you cope with relinquishing control while also ensuring your business is running efficiently?
While you may struggle with micromanagement tendencies, it's better to delegate rather than try to control every employee move. The National Center for Biotechnology Information and the U.S. National Library of Medicine published a study in 2002 on the impact of micromanagement in healthcare settings. While the study is rather narrow in scope, its lessons can be broadly applied to any company or field.
The study says that in some short-term cases, micromanagement can help boost the productivity of underperforming employees and help control some high-risk issues; the long-term effects of micromanagement, however, are quite significant. In fact, according to the study, micromanagement is one of the top three reasons that employees resign, and it leads to decreased growth on both personal and business levels. It also sets managers on the fast track to burnout.
If you want to hone your skills to become a great manager, you need to take steps to avoid being a micromanager. Here are five ways to ensure that you create an efficient workplace and avoid damaging your employees, your business, your reputation or your bottom line.
1. Learn about your leadership style.
As with many things in business, you need to be self-aware to be successful. In the case of ensuring that you do not micromanage people, you need to be aware of which things you tend to hang onto a bit too tightly. Whether your attention is on a project, a task, or even focused on a particular employee, you should be aware of how your attention affects outcomes. If you are overly attentive or overly controlling in any one of these areas, you are likely to slide into micromanagement territory.
An article in Harvard Business Review (HBR) offers two questions to ask yourself when you are getting ready to hand off an assignment to your employees. First, it's crucial to know where you, individually, can add the most value to a project, assignment or task. The answer to that question will give you a better idea of where it's best to spend your time and energy. Second, ask yourself what skills you have that can help the team succeed.
It's also important to be aware of the management styles you are both drawn to and shun. The adage of treating people the way that you want to be treated often is the best path forward when it comes to managing teams. If you don't enjoy being micromanaged, do your best not to do this to your team. If you prefer to be trusted and take on a project that your manager has assigned you, then offer that same support to your employees.
2. Know your team.
You must know your team – their skills, weaknesses and working styles. You also need to know who is ready to take on more responsibility and who might be able to work independently with little oversight.
The key to not micromanaging is knowing who the talented people are on your team. In some cases, they may need a little coaching to get going, but don't be afraid to give your people the opportunity to surprise you. Once you know the makeup of your team, you can delegate tasks that they can achieve.
3. Leverage your team's skills.
Handing over tasks to employees is more than just assigning them something to do and leaving them be. It often takes finesse and trust to execute big projects flawlessly, and it requires a lot of support both from you as a manager and from the company as a whole.
The first step in successfully delegating – and not micromanaging – is to set up your employees for success. That means you need to ensure that the employees you hand the project off to have the necessary abilities and the know-how to execute the project. In some cases, this may be the first time your employees have worked on or managed a project like this. In others, the employees may be more than equipped to handle the project and run with it. It takes a solid knowledge of your employees' skills to delegate well.
In addition to asking yourself the same questions suggested by HBR mentioned above, ask yourself these two important questions before you delegate:
- Where can the members of my team best allocate their skills to accomplish this task?
- Are there any skill gaps we may need to fill? If so, where can I find the resources to help my team succeed?
4. Set milestones.
In addition to knowing your employees, it's crucial to give them clear guidelines and goals for whatever tasks you delegate to them. When it comes to delegating, you must provide your team and employees with clear micro-goals along the path to the final outcome. That will help keep the team focused and on task as the project moves forward.
Keeping the benchmark goals of the project in mind and clearly communicating those as milestones to the team will help set the team up for success and help prevent you from micromanaging. You can use the milestone goals to check progress at set intervals and help keep the project on track without hovering over every tiny step.
5. Trust your team.
Once you have handed off a project, it's time to step back and trust your team. Part of being a great delegator and not a micromanager is trusting that the people you have assigned the project to can and will execute it. This can be the most stressful part of the delegation process because it truly means that you, as a manager, need to let go. You must trust that your employees will do the best job they can with the tools they have.
Part of letting go is allowing the assigned employees to choose the process they will use to achieve the goals you have laid out. Remember, when delegating, it's less about the process than it is about the outcome at the end. If the team decides to take a route that may not have been your first choice, it doesn't mean that the team is going to fail; it merely means that they are using their skills to find the best path forward for them. By allowing your team to choose their own path, you show that you trust them to hit the milestones you have clearly laid out for them.
One additional consideration to keep in mind when trusting your team is that you need to allow them to operate semi-autonomously. If you keep team members appraised of the "why" and the "what" of the task you have delegated, you enable them to make autonomous decisions to keep the project on track and see that it comes to fruition.
If you follow these five tips to delegate and avoid micromanaging your employees, you can ensure that you set your team up for success and that you keep the workplace running on an efficient timetable.