So we have all been warned not to micro-manage our team, but somehow, all the day-to-day expectations creep in and we find ourselves playing a little too heavily in the decision making processes. But none of us wants to admit that we micro-manage our folks.
In today’s blog post I will cover two things – 1) how to tell if you are micro-managing and 2) what happens when you micro-manage.
So what is the number one indicator that you are a micro-manager? One simple test I will suggest is to look at how you spend your day. Take a quick look at your meeting schedule. If the bulk of your day is spent in what I refer to as an “informational meeting” as opposed to a “decisional meeting,” you are likely a micro-manager. Even simpler, if you are spending your day getting updates or statuses vs removing barriers for your team members or recognizing their accomplishments, you are probably a micro-manager.
What is an informational meeting? This is a meeting that is called to get the status on a project, progress toward contract award, or simply a meeting you call to hear yourself talk. We sometimes call these “staff meetings.” Check yourself. If these meeting typically resort to you providing input on how to solve the problems for the team, then you are micro-managing. You may justify these meeting by the simple fact that the team isn’t bringing you solutions, but rather problems for you to solve (see below why this may be the case). Rather, maybe start by asking what the team has done to resolve the problems by themselves and what they need from you to move forward. Check number 2, if your day is spent in a conference room rather than the workplace or if your employees or team leaders dread coming to your meeting, you may have a problem with micro-management.
So, OK, maybe you are a micro-manager. So what? Your infinite wisdom and close control of the team can only make the end result better, right? Wrong. The biggest result from micro-management is this: “If you micro-manage your team, they will let you.” What does this mean? Simply put, if you constantly provide program direction or worse, reverse decisions that were made by the team, they will stop thinking or trying to resolve their own problems They will simply wait for the boss to solve the problem for them. After all, any decisions made by the team will likely be questioned and/or changed during the “informational” briefing, anyway, right. Compounding this problem is that problems will not be resolved timely – teams will wait for the meeting for the boss to resolve, losing valuable time in the process.
This is a death spiral. So how do you get out of this mode? Simple. Start with trust. Especially on the simpler, low risk tasks. Check yourself – is the minor “advice” you are about to offer worth the lowered trust factor with your team. Let your team fly.
And speaking of trust. An excellent book on the subject is “The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything.” This book, by Stephen M.R. Covey (the son of the prolific and respected author Stephen R. Covey) discusses this trust issue in depth and describes how an organization can be held back to the level of trust within. You can find this excellent book on Amazon here:
Start today with trust. Start today by setting up a tiered review process and let the team manage their own products. Get project status via one-way communication (if you must) like a weekly activity report that will discourage you from asking a million questions. And continue to micro-manage only the most important projects until the level of trust you need is established and you can “let it go.”
And another hint. If you are a second level manager or above, don’t expect your tiered managers to know it all about every project. Doing so will drive their behavior to one of a micro-manager. If you need answers, ask, then let them take the time to answer. To expect them to have all the answers at all times drives the wrong behavior.
Good luck and TRUST! It’s where it all starts.