Four Ways to Stop Yourself From Being a Micro-Manager
Are you someone who is passionate about the work that you do? Do you strive to produce the most excellent results? Do you always go above and beyond in getting work done? Are you always looking for ways to offer help to others even before they ask you?
If you answered "yes" to more than two of these questions, then you could be prone to becoming a micro-manager (or maybe you already are one!) All of the above behaviors are what organizations look for in their employees, but as you become a manager, these same behaviors could be the ones that lead you to becoming a tight-gripped supervisor – who your team perceives as extremely involved, nit-picking, and controlling.
Micro-managing is defined as, "To manage, especially with excessive control or attention to details." Most managers I've come across haven't become micro-managers because they wanted to, but because of their passion for the work they do. If you are a manager or an aspiring manager, it would help immensely to become aware of the behaviors that lead you down the path to micro-managing.
Finding the balance between being passionate about the work you are responsible for and micro-managing people or processes is more of a science than an art. Here are four ways to stop yourself from being a micro-manager.
1) Be aware of your neurological responses.
Stress plays a primary role in determining your management style. The hypothalamus is ready to activate the sympathetic nervous system as soon it realizes that your body is exhibiting stress-related reactions. This puts you in flight-or-fight mode, causing you to react as if your life depends on it. Persistent low stress, which is what we encounter in our everyday lives (traffic, deadlines, job security, missed opportunities, etc.), is as detrimental as bouts of high stress.
As a manager, you are constantly facing these low-stress scenarios, causing your brain to always be in stress-response mode, and subsequently leading you to take the route of controlling every aspect of work at hand. Recognizing stress factors and your natural responses is the first step in countering them. Relaxation response, physical activity, and social support are great techniques for controlling your stress responses.
2) Don’t aim for perfectionism, aim for efficiency.
I read somewhere that perfectionism aims for success, but it is more focused on avoiding failure. As a manager, when you choose perfectionism, you are trying to define what that perfect result or outcome should be. The problem is: That's your viewpoint. The consequence of this is frustration when your team does things a different way, leading you to divert all your attention to the details, thereby resulting in the display of a highly-controlling nature.
On the flip side is efficiency, which aims at doing something well, successfully, and without waste. Efficiency can be benchmarked easily, with measurable targets like: "The application should not have any Level 1 or 2 type errors," "The accounts should reconcile with a maximum variance of $100," or, "A response rate of 80% on the client satisfaction survey." Aiming for efficiency not only paves the path to set measurable and clear goals for the entire team, but helps a manager track them without being overly-involved in every task.
3) Build trust – both ways.
When you micro-manage, it's like carrying a poster board on your head that states, “I don’t trust my team and my team doesn’t trust me.” Trust doesn’t happen naturally; it needs to be built.
As a manager, it is your responsibility to take that first step in laying the foundation and helping build trust with and among your team. To do this, you need to be aware of the skills and strengths that each person on your team brings, and you need to show them that you are there to provide them with opportunities that will utilize their skills and strengths.
By doing this, you are sending them a message that you trust them and are placing your bets on their success. Which, in turn, will prompt them to display behaviors that uphold your opinion. That's trust being built both ways.
4) Be deliberate.
The most important of all is being deliberate in your efforts to not become a micro-manager. This does not mean that you have to be completely uninvolved. Instead, you should be “consciously involved” in the work that your team is putting forth, without impeding their ingenuity. For example, you can use designated check-ins and provide clear expectations of what will be discussed during those times. To be a consciously-involved manager, you should be deliberate in your efforts not to cross over the thin line into the micro-managing space.
Don’t be tempted to turn to old behaviors when you encounter setbacks. It's easy to turn to our old, comforting behaviors when we encounter failure in efforts to form new ones. As a good manager, you should learn to accept that failures are sometimes unavoidable, and that they should not be a reason to adopt micro-management.
Learn to appreciate the strengths of others and enjoy the work you do without fear of the results. Be a consciously-involved manager!
[Related: The Secret to Work/Life Balance]
Manju Valmiki is a management professional with over sixteen years’ experience covering the functional areas of finance and analysis, capital markets, information technology, and project management. For further information on this topic, you can reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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