Are You a Dreaded Micromanager?

Congratulations, you’ve molded your staff into one high-performance team. But at what cost? Are they motivated to come to work every day, or do they get anxious every time you look over their shoulder? If fear is their influence, your high-performance results may be diminished by low morale and lack of innovation. Have you become the dreaded micromanager? Find out and learn how to fix it.

Signs You Might Be a Micromanager

If you’re a fan of the Dilbert comic, you’re familiar with its pointy-haired boss who exhibits many of the traits of a micromanager. It’s a management style where control has great importance. These managers tend to pay excessive attention to small details. They often create meticulous procedures with many checkpoints and allow employees very little decision-making authority. That can leave staff feeling like they’re not trusted to do a good job.

While this might be an effective style for new employees just learning the ropes, it can stifle more seasoned staff and prevent them from making their maximum contribution to your business. Rather than focusing on the overall goal, employees get lost in the details.

It also restricts the flow of communication. Since discussion is primarily between the boss and the employee, the staff doesn’t talk with each other. That’s a missed opportunity to collaborate with each other and nurture continuous improvement.

If left unchecked, micromanagement can lead to retention issues with employees who are looking for a chance to maximize their skills. For micromanagers, it means employees are constantly coming to them for direction—a situation that can lead to their own burnout.

Want to see if you have micromanager tendencies? Take this light-hearted Inc. Magazine quiz and find out.

How to Take a More Productive Approach

Did you score high on the micromanager quiz? Don’t panic, your approach likely started with good intentions. Here are some ways to take a more productive path.

  • Develop an awareness – Learn to recognize when you might have crossed the line to micromanaging. Use your stress level as a gauge. Are you stressed out because you’re taking on too much? What’s the worst thing that could happen if you let go of that one detail? Are you stressed because something was done incorrectly or because it was done differently than you would have done it? Will it really be easier if you do it yourself?
  • Rebalance your priorities – It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when you’re running a business. That’s why it’s important to identify and stick to your highest priorities, both business and personal. Richard Carlson’s “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” challenges people to find ways to keep the little things from taking over their life. Here’s an audio excerpt from his book.
  • Learn to delegate – As the business owner or manager, your time is best spent on activities that grow your business, so look for opportunities to delegate more administrative tasks. Start with something small, then increase responsibility gradually. Focus on the deliverable that you want from employees, not how they’re going to do it. Besides offloading the task, you’ll be developing your staff and promoting a sense of trust.
  • Get feedback – How you perceive something may be different from how your employees see it. For example, double checking every order before it goes out might be your idea of quality assurance, but to employees it might seem like you don’t trust them. Use your coaching sessions to solicit feedback from your staff. You might be surprised to hear their perspective, and together, you may come up with a better solution.

Getting the best from your team doesn’t mean you need to monitor their every move. Recognizing the signs of micromanagement can help redirect your approach so your staff can achieve their real potential (and your business can grow with them).

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