Here’s How to Stop Micromanaging Your Team and Give them some Breathing Space

Nobody wants a manager who is breathing down their necks all the time! Anybody who has ever worked under a micromanager knows how this habit can be demoralizing, kills productivity, stifles creativity, and leaves both parties emotionally drained. You may placate yourself with the excuse that you are simply keeping tabs on your team, but in reality, what you are doing is labeled “excessive meddling”. Here’s how you can stop being a control freak all the time.

Reflect on Your Behavior

it’s hard to pull out of the habit of micromanagement until you get at the roots of why you developed it in the first place.

Understand where this urge to micromanage is coming from. Perhaps you are feeling apprehensive, afraid that your team may not be able to do something as well as you would have done, which in turn will reflect badly on your organization. Maybe you are insecure, worried that not immersing yourself into the nitty gritty details of a project will make you appear out of the loop. We suggest that you come out clean about the excuses you are using to micromanage your team.

You may be placating yourself with justifications, such as “too much is at stake to afford a single mistake on this project”, or “I can save hours by just doing it myself.” Instead, you should focus really hard on all the reasons how micromanagement can suck the life-force out of your team and why you should refrain from it. Think of all the benefits you’d derive if you stopped, such as finding more time to focus on what really matters.

Manage Expectations, Not Tasks 

Managers spend a better part of their day telling their subordinates what needs to be done but not enough time on how it needs to be done. Sometimes, what needs to be done and what is expected are different. Good leadership is all about doing your best to ensure that each individual member of a team knows what is expected. Once everyone is on the same page with expectations, there is no need to micromanage. The outcomes will be in your favor.

Step Back Slowly

You can’t expect to kill your micromanaging impulses in one night, but it really helps to pull back one step at a time.

You need to get comfortable as you take each step back. Start with a low-priority project, give your team full accountability and see how it goes. Leaders need to realize that their way isn’t always the best. The true test of leadership is how well the team does when you’re gone. Pass the reigns over to your team and watch from the sidelines.

If you do feel an urge to stay updated, seek feedback from other coworkers about how your team is operating and how further far along they are.  Ask a third person about the progress of the project. Not only will you get the valuable project information that you sought, you can do so without seeming too intrusive. You may feel better knowing that everything is fine. If you think that you have pulled too far back and your team isn’t coming to your expectations, find a way find a way that doesn’t involve peering over your employees’ shoulders.

Get feedback

Often, the biggest workplace problem is the lack of understanding between what leaders intend and what the team is actually experiencing.

For instance, you may get a mild whiff of suspicion that something is awry, while on the other end, your team members are already finding your constant hovering annoying. Feedback is the only thing that can bridge the gap between leaders and employees. Honest feedback can help you see what the actual problem is and what your employees really think and feel.

To get a direct grip on what your employees are experiencing and whether it aligns with your intent, it is recommended to conduct a cross-evaluation assessment. This is where you collect confidential data from your employees, and aggregate those results so employees know their anonymity has been protected. You may not exactly like what you hear, but it is important to know the impact your micromanagement has on the team.

Prioritize what matters—and what doesn’t

A good manager trains and delegates, but you can’t really do that if you want to wear all the hats yourself and juggle the smallest of tasks because you believe you can do it better.

Start by determining the critical areas where your involvement is absolutely necessary (e.g. strategic planning) and what items can be delegated to other employees (e.g. drafting a client pitch). Every morning you walk into work, skim your to-do list to determine which low-hanging fruit you can pass on to a team member, and keep the big ticket items for yourself.

Make sure you are not breathing down your employees’ necks all the time, and instead, spending most of your energy on tasks where you can add value. Micromanaging disrupts the real work of leaders, which is developing and articulating a compelling vision for your team.

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