To Micro-Manage or Not to Micro-Manage? That is The Question

One of the cardinal rules of management is to avoid micro-managing. Employees tend to resent an over-attentive, helicopter boss who constantly slows down productivity. Supervisors tend to take on an overwhelming workload for fear of lazy employees slacking off.  So the bigger issue is, how do you define micro-managing? When does being passionate and detail-oriented become being obsessive and distrusting? Let's take a look at how to balance on the tight-rope walk. 

Fear is The Problem

Many new managers, especially females, start their new role from a defensive viewpoint. Inexperienced supervisors walk into an office thinking that they have to prove themselves. They tend to be super flexible and accommodating so that employees like them. OR they might be over-confident and want to make drastic changes to the group dynamic. This defense mechanism stems from a basic level of fear.

Fear or Fact

The key to identifying the difference between micro-management and being detail-oriented, is to ask yourself, "Am I doing this as a result of fear or fact?" Ask yourself these questions if you find yourself becoming obsessive.

1.  Your employee tells you that she feels pressured when you keep breathing down her throat to meet a deadline. She feels overwhelmed when you check on her every hour and remind her how much time she has left. 

Why do you feel the need to check up on her so often?

FEAR: Is she inexperienced? Does she do things differently than you do? Is your superior pressuring you for results?

FACT: Does she have a history of failure? Is she not following your instructions? Do you have proof that she procrastinates? 

If she legitimately can't get the job done, try to find a solution that motivates her without making her feel inadequate.

2. Your superior assigned you a major project. You want to ensure that his expectations are met so you take on most of the responsibilities. You're already at full-capacity right now, but you'll find the time.

Why don't you delegate some of the work?

FEAR: Do you want to impress your boss? Do you think the stakes are too high to let anyone else help? Are you afraid to ask for help? Do you doubt your team can handle it?

FACT: Do your employees already have too many responsibilities as it is? Does the project require skills that your employees don't have? Is this a secret project above their pay-grade?

If the project is really that significant, then communicate your team's limitations to your boss. Have him evaluate priorities. Find a compromise that meets his needs, but doesn't overload your team.

3. You created a step-by-step instruction manual on how to complete a task. Your employee asks if he can try a different method he believes will be more efficient. You tell him he must follow your instructions no matter what.

Why didn't you give him a chance to deviate from the plan?

FEAR: Are you afraid that it would make you look bad if he has a better solution? Do you feel threatened by him questioning your methods?  Are you afraid other employees will start doing things their way and you'll lose control? 

FACT: Is he fresh out of college and hasn't had any real industry experience? Does he have a consistent record of poor performance? Is there a tight budget with no room for experimentation?  

If he is truthfully not equipped to perform the task outside of your instructions, take the time to explain why. Educate him on why your method works and use data to support your argument.  

Trust is the Solution

Establishing a sense of trust is the best way to overcome the fear that leads to micro-management. Fear is the enemy of faith and if trust isn't at the center of every decision, then all sides lose. Stay confident, give your staff the credit they deserve, and learn to lead by example. 

Trust Yourself

Your superior put you in your position for a reason. He or she trusts your judgement and believes you are capable of being a good leader. Have faith in your own talents and use your instincts. Don't worry about being a certain kind of boss or be afraid about rubbing people the wrong way. As long as you respect everyone and do your job to the best of your ability, you will succeed.


Trust Your Team

In 4 Keys To Effective Delegating, we learned that being a good manager means you are an excellent match-maker. You should have a strong understanding of your team member's talents and pair tasks accordingly. Encourage your staff and empower them to keep growing. If some employees consistently disappoint, either educate them or replace them. You should be able to rely on your team to be supportive and collaborative.

Your Team Trusts You

In 5 Tips for Respectful Relationships, we learned that honest communication is a necessity when it comes to connecting with your team. Make a habit of being available to hear their feedback and concerns. Your staff members should be able to come to you for support and encouragement. They should also expect you to challenge them and make tough calls in times of crisis. As a leader, you should practice what you preach and lead by example.

Micro-management is a delicate line. Learn to find the right balance by keeping the right perspective, evaluating situations rationally and building a strong sense of trust. If you'd like to learn more about the balancing act that is management, sign-up for daily tips on how be a better leader.