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Managing vs. Micromanaging: How to Lead Effectively

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Micromanagement may be one of the most detrimental tendencies a manager can have. It starts with relatively positive characteristics — being an involved leader who pays attention to detail — but then spirals into a controlling or obsessive management strategy. While it often stems from the desire to help employees succeed, micromanagement usually ends up hurting the entire team. It damages the confidence of employees, disempowers them, and can often cause them to quit altogether. If it doesn’t cause them to want to leave, you’ll likely have a team of employees who are frustrated, lower performing, and who are helpless when it comes to making decisions on their own. Managers who want to lead a successful team must learn how to stay involved, offer support, and share knowledge, without micromanaging. Though it can be easy to fall into micromanaging from time to time, there are some great strategies to help you avoid it:


Trust your hiring process

The first way to prevent micromanaging your team is to trust that you hired effectively from the start. If you feel confident that you selected candidates appropriately and chose your team members for a reason, you’ll trust in their ability to perform. When you have a careful hiring process, you can allow employees to do the work you hired them to do. Just remember that a great employee isn’t someone who never makes a mistake. Give your employees the space to make mistakes so that they can learn as they go. Again, if you trust your hiring process, you’ll trust that these mistakes are important learning experiences and not red flags of failure.


Focus on the bigger picture

Shift your focus from small details to the overall results. If you find yourself noting tiny mistakes or details in the process that aren’t really impacting the end result, it may be time to take a step back. Identify the large goals you have for your team, and focus your attention on their progress towards them. If goals are consistently being met, you can trust in your team members’ performance. If those big-picture goals aren’t being met, then it’s time to zoom in a bit more and look into the issues that may be causing trouble.


Don’t give all the answers

Teach your team to be confident and self-sufficient by letting them learn from experience. Rather than spoon-feeding them answers, act as a teacher who helps them learn on their own. If you get countless questions from your team about things they could likely solve on their own, that may be a sign you need to step back a bit. Help build confidence in employees and encourage them to learn by doing. Make them comfortable doing so by being available for support and developing a relationship with them individually.


Coach them individually

Set regular meetings to check in with your team members as opposed to looking over their shoulders throughout the work week. Meeting individually, you can better identify strengths and weaknesses and give the specific assistance they need to succeed. These meetings can also give you insight on how much support different employees require so that you know who may benefit from additional attention and who doesn’t need it.


Communicate openly

Make sure the doors of communication with your team are wide open. Team members must feel comfortable asking you for clarification to avoid big mistakes. In return, you’ll trust that employees will come to you when necessary instead of keeping you in the dark about a major problem. This will keep you from feeling the need to oversee their every move. Feedback is also important. By giving employees clear feedback in meetings, they can apply that as they move forward. In addition to giving feedback, don’t forget to ask employees for feedback as well. They can let you know if they’re starting to feel micromanaged or abandoned which will help you keep a balance.


Managers rarely fall into micromanagement practices on purpose. Instead, it’s usually the result of a fear of failure and a desire for their team to succeed. No matter the intention, micromanaging usually yields negative results. By actively counteracting micromanagement tendencies and staying involved in helpful, healthy ways, managers can best lead their team to success.


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