July 19, 2022

How to avoid micro-managing

Micromanaging can be a bad habit created by fear and insecurity. When you work with people you respect someone’s work and acknowledge them as more talented than you, you won’t feel the need to micro-m

Micromanaging can be a bad habit created by fear and insecurity. When you work with people you respect someone’s work and acknowledge them as more talented than you, you won’t feel the need to micro-manage them. Instead, start leading. This will allow them to create work beyond your and their limitations.

One reason why micromanagement is so tempting is that we can feel justifiably protective about the work we've done; we worked hard for it and want it to be done well. We might also be concerned that other people don't have the same level of care for our projects as we do and will make mistakes or cut corners. Fear of failure or not looking good might be the driving force behind this attitude.

So if someone else has something they're working on, we might think, "I know it's good practice for them, but I need to make sure they do it right." It can also be a way of asserting control over a situation that seems too chaotic or unpredictable—we feel the urge to grab back some semblance of control. It's often easier (and more comfortable) for us to tell someone else how to do something than it is to let go and trust them with the work.

Still, micromanagement can do more harm and cause more restraint to your workflow than you think. Progress over perfection. As such, here are some ways to avoid micromanaging your team.

Practice building trust

The key here is balance: you need to trust that your employees know what they're doing and encourage them to try new things without being afraid of failure (which isn't so easy for some people). You shouldn't let your fear of failure back you into becoming a micromanager; your employees will only feel more restricted by this kind of leadership. Instead, practice building trust with your team by giving them opportunities to do things their own way.

In order to give your team space to make decisions on their own and move forward without having me hovering over their shoulders, you would have to be comfortable with trusting that they would make mistakes. To some people in a leadership role, this idea is terrifying—but if you're able to keep calm when something goes wrong, and even learn from the mistakes your team makes, you're showing them that they can come to you for guidance when things aren't going well. You're showing them that you trust them.

Think of all the tasks off your plate

One way to think of delegating in a positive light is to think of the tasks off your plate. Instead of being consumed with how every detail goes, and how each task is completed, it's better to think about the end result of your employees' work and how it impacts the company as a whole.

Delegation is not just about the employee either—it's equally as important for the manager because it ensures that you're able to handle all of your responsibilities without overloading yourself.

Think of all the free time for yourself so you can focus on other projects or responsibilities, and the things you don’t have to take your personal time figuring out and out of your specialization.

Set clear expectations

It could seem easier to keep a closer eye on things when you take on a bigger role in your team or organization. But what ends up happening is that people aren't able to do things themselves and they have to run everything by you anyway. You're not helping them—you're creating dependence. The most important thing is to set clear expectations, so that people can work independently. In this situation, preparation is the key.

They're more likely to meet your expectations if you give them the freedom and the tools they need to be successful. You can try to address this issue by setting up an elaborate system of reminders and checklists and deadlines and reviews. Let your team approach you when they need help instead  of hovering over their shoulders all the time. Still, make sure to remain firm in communicating deliverables and KPIs.

A very simple way we set expectations is by writing down a brief with all your goals, KPI, expected deliverables, inspirations and resources. This lets you focus on setting your expectations and keep it on record.

Communicate effectively

We know that you want to be thorough, and that's great—that's what we want, too! But there's a difference between being thorough and being overbearing, and we all know the latter can become a problem. Communication is essential to collaboration; if you really want your team to be productive, try talking to them more instead of constantly checking up on them or expecting things from them without explanation.

Employees who understand what is expected of them will work better than those whose job descriptions are constantly changing because no one bothered to clarify or document anything. A manager who listens to their employees' input will make better decisions than one who doesn’t.

Allow your team to learn

The best way to avoid micro-managing is by understanding that no two people are alike. Some people learn better by reading instructions, others learn better by seeing examples, still others learn best by jumping in and using a system themselves. The key is finding out which method works best for each person on your team, then allowing them to do things on their own without being constantly hovered over.

Try to give your team members some freedom in their work. Ask them how they'd approach a problem and then listen to what they have to say. Don't try to solve the problem for them; instead, let them think about it on their own. If you give your employees room to make decisions and learn from their mistakes—even if those mistakes are outside of your comfort zone—you'll find that you have a much more efficient team as well as people who are more engaged and enthusiastic about their jobs.

Micromanagement is different than taking an active interest in what your employees or colleagues are doing. You need to be able to trust that the people around you are capable of doing their jobs without your oversight constantly.

If you are working with or leading a team, take some time to reflect on your practices. Watch out for some of these signs if you are micromanaging:

  • Making every little decision run by you
  • Wanting to be updated every single time
  • Facing difficulty in delegating your task
  • Believing that other people are incapable
  • Providing over complicated instructions or lack of preparation