How to stop Micromanaging

Many people have asked me to provide more detailed insight as to how to stop being a Micromanager at a more practical level. Some have admitted to be Micromanagers themselves and that they can agree to the fact that their employees don’t appreciate being micromanaged and that it is in the best interest of their business to curb this behaviour before it leads to even more negative effects, like poor morale, lack of motivation and staff turnover.

Tips on avoiding Micromanagement

Below are some practical advice, from my past experience and from what I constantly see happening within businesses I work with:-

  1. Physically Remove Yourself : Leaders often delegate actions and plans to their teams but they never physically leave. By just leaving, you create more productivity and more independence.
  2. Manage Expectations, Not Tasks: Managers usually spend a decent amount of time telling their teams what needs to be done. Sometimes what needs to be done and what is expected are different. Effective leaders will do their best to ensure each individual member of a team knows what is expected. Once everyone is in sync with expectations, there is no need to micromanage. It is about outcomes, not activity.
  3. Only Do What Only You Can Do: As a leader, it is critical to focus your time on the activities that only you can do – like strategic planning. Your role is to set limits on how jobs get done and to manage outcomes. If you find yourself micromanaging others, you have failed to delegate correctly. Ensure your team has the skills (train them), set limits and manage outcomes.
  4. Ask Employees How They Want To Be Managed: Confident leaders combat micromanaging their employees by seeking their input. Simply asking, “How often would you like me to check in?” or “How would you like me to hold you accountable?” reveals how different employees like to be managed. Not only does this provide the leader with vital information, but it also establishes trust and autonomy in the employee — it’s a win-win situation.
  5. Focus On Managing Your Culture: Culture within your business is so important and yet it rarely is given half the importance it merits. Smart leaders are more concerned about managing their culture than they are about managing their people. Leaders can communicate with clarity about values, beliefs and behaviours that should be embodied in the culture of a company. When employees understand how and why a leader thinks like they do, then they aspire to complete tasks and projects according to the values of the culture.
  6. Trust Your Team: Many micromanagers do so because they have trust issues. They don’t trust that someone else can do the job as well as they would do it. Confront your personal issues and then seek to empower your team to succeed. If they are doing the task not as you would do it, ask questions to gain understanding rather than criticising, while also providing constructive feedback. See this insightful video on trust and micromanaging.
  7. Adopt A Fail-Forward Attitude: Perfectionism is often one of the reasons behind micromanaging. If you want your team to learn and grow, you must allow them a certain amount of autonomy. Allow your team to learn through failure and openly discuss lessons learned. By adopting a fail-forward attitude, your team will achieve success much faster. Your job is to act as a coach. To develop others, you must guide, not steer. As Winston Churchill said “failure is not fatal”.
  8. Create Transparency: A lot of micromanaging comes from leaders who don’t have access or ability to view information, tasks or track initiatives in real time. Implementing a project management system where leaders can view the status, notes or movement can allow a leader to check on things without being overbearing. This transparency can create visibility that a leader might not otherwise have access to.
  9. Be A Facilitator, Not A Taskmaster: Play the role of facilitator rather than a taskmaster. Encourage a strong line of open communication. Let your team know they can come to you with problems or questions. Show your team you trust them by sharing what is important to you and why. Clearly and frequently articulate expectations of the team as a whole to establish camaraderie and a shared team vision.
  10. Encourage An Environment Of Intrapreneurship: Linked to the previous point of culture, build a mindset of having your employees look at themselves as entrepreneurs within the company. They are expected to do more than just perform tasks asked of them, but to maximise their creativity and skill sets by leading, innovating and being an integral part of the company’s vision. This helps to build morale because the work becomes significant and meaningful, not a chore. You create a sense of Purpose!
  11. Set Aside Your Personal Desire To ‘Win’: Micromanaging is often rooted in an impulse to deliver the win. Many leaders began as rising stars and still get a charge out of being the one to find the solution. It can be tempting to indulge this habit, but stepping in front of the team sends a message that you don’t believe they are capable of completing the objectives.
  12. Give Them More Responsibility Than You’re Comfortable With: This may not be easy, but giving your people more responsibility than you’re comfortable with leads to creative, cohesive teams. It’s not as simple as saying, “Do this and get on with it.” It’s discussing the project, strategies and concerns upfront and being available to answer questions and give feedback. The more you practice this, the easier it gets.
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Silvan Mifsud

Silvan holds a degree in Banking & Finance from the University of Malta and an MBA from the University of Reading, specialising in Corporate Finance and Business Leadership. Silvan has been involved in various sectors of the economy holding various managerial and directorship roles. Silvan is presently working as a Director for Advisory Services at EMCS, whereby he advises various businesses on their strategy, operations, corporate governance, financial performance analysis and sourcing their financing needs.