Admit It: You’re a Micromanager. Here’s How to Kick the Habit

Are you micromanaging your team in such a way that they have little chance of ever meeting your standards? Here's how to fix the problem.

You’re frustrated your team just can’t seem to meet your standards. And unless you do it yourself, nothing really gets done. You ask your team to constantly update you on their progress, but there never seems to be much progress at all.

The issue might very well be your team.  But it also could be you. Are you micromanaging your team in such a way that they have little chance of ever meeting your standards?  Are are you limiting the growth of your team – and of yourself – by over-controlling the process?  And if that’s the case (and sometimes it’s hard to admit it), here’s a quick set of steps you can take to turn things around.

Step 1:  Look for signs. 

Look at yourself: Do you need to know what everyone is doing all of the time?  Are you rarely satisfied with deliverables?   Do you expect to be cc-ed on everything?  Do you feel that in order to do anything right, it has to be done by you?   Are you constantly looking to get feedback from your team? Does your team seem to have unreasonably high turnover?  Are they often waiting for your response or approval before taking action – even on relatively small issues?   If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, chances are, you might indeed be a micromanager. 

Step 2:  Drop your defenses. 

This is perhaps the most important step of all, and it’s hard. You probably micromanage for a reason: perhaps it’s your fear of losing control; or perhaps you don’t actually feel comfortable in your role as a manager – and therefore need to cling to your old responsibilities.  Or perhaps you’re afraid that you might not have what it takes to do your new job – you worry you’re not “big picture enough” or a good enough strategic thinker – and by micromanaging you get to keep busy and avoid confronting this unpleasant realization.   No one likes to realize the folly of their ways, but it’s critical to peel back the layers to see why you’re doing what you do, and how – and why – it may be dysfunctional for both you and for your team.

Step 3:  Take seriously the upside of change.

Yes, micromanaging might feel productive, since you have your hand in everything.  But the reality is that it’s probably not.  You are likely getting less out of your team by micromanaging them. You’re stifling their growth and learning and might even be making them feel demoralized.  And you’re also likely stunting your own growth as a leader as well. By micromanaging other people’s work, you’re not able to fully attend to your own. You’re less likely to develop the key skills that you need to progress in your career, as a big-picture thinker and strategist, and as a mentor and teacher of others.

Step 4:  Find a transitional mode.  

It’s hard to go cold turkey with anything – and micromanaging is no exception. So, find a middle ground.  Instead of being cc-ed on every email, ask to be cc-ed only on certain types of emails. Or instead of checking in with your team at your current rate, cut that by a third.  Or start with people and projects you have more confidence in.  And then once you see some positive results – that your team can actually function successfully without you, you might have more confidence to let go in other situations as well.

It’s not easy to let go as a micromanager.  You care deeply about the quality of your work, and your reputation, and you know that you can do many things better by just doing them yourself.  But once you realize the upside of giving others autonomy – and letting them do their own jobs – you’ll be amazed how successful and productive you can feel doing yours.


Originally published at Inc