By: Rebecca Knight
Micromanaging is a hard habit to break. You may downplay your propensities by labeling yourself a “control freak” or by claiming that you just like to keep close tabs on your team, but those are poor excuses for excessive meddling. What can you do to give your people the space they need to succeed and learn? How should you prioritize what matters? And how do you get comfortable stepping back?
What the Experts Say
If you’re the kind of boss who lasers in on details, prefers to be cc’ed on emails, and is rarely satisfied with your team’s work, then—there’s no kind way to say this—you’re a micromanager. “For the sake of your team, you need to stop,” says Muriel Maignan Wilkins, coauthor of Own the Room and managing partner of Paravis Partners, an executive coaching and leadership development firm.
“Micromanaging dents your team’s morale by establishing a tone of mistrust—and it limits your team’s capacity to grow,” she says. It also hampers your ability to focus on what’s really important, adds Karen Dillon, author of the HBR Guide to Office Politics. “If your mind is filled with the micro-level details of a number of jobs, there’s no room for big picture thoughts,” she says. As hard as it may be to change your ways, the “challenge is one that will pay off in the long run,” says Jennifer Chatman, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
“There may be a few failures as your team learns to step up, but ultimately they will perform much, much better with greater accountability and less interference.”
Here are some pointers on how to let go.
• Reflect On Your Behavior
• Get Feedback
• Prioritize What Matters—and What Doesn’t
• Talk To Your Team
• Step Back Slowly
• Build Trust
• Know Your Employees’ Limitations
Principles to Remember
• Ask yourself why you micromanage and reflect on your need for control
• Refine your to do list by prioritizing the tasks and projects that matter most to you
• Talk to your team about how you’d like to be kept apprised of their progress
• Renege on your vote of confidence—tell your reports you trust them and let them do their jobs
• Overact when things don’t go exactly as you’d like them to—take a breath and figure out a way to correct the situation if it’s truly necessary
• Go too far—you don’t want to become a hands-off boss