I’ve heard a few stories of late from people unhappy with the level of interference they are experiencing from managers who insist on particular ways of working. Ranging from detailed lists to hourly check-ins, this micromanagement undermines trust and subtracts value from both people and processes. It brings to mind several quotations but this one serves my purpose eloquently:
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Management does not mean control. Whilst there is, necessarily, a need to try to control outcomes it should not be about controlling people. Management should be more about alignment, direction and enabling. Micromanagement emerges from a desire to control behaviour rather than events. Even if you’ve done something many times before you need to avoid imposing your solutions, your way. No one likes to be dictated to. In fact, to do so immediately creates a defence response since the need for autonomy is one of the prime human drivers.
The solution is simple – proper delegation and support. Stay in the problem domain. Express needs, desires and expectations and let your team members own the solution. I’m sure you are already familiar with the SMART acronym and this directly enables effective management by objectives. In particular, if the objectives are clear, measurable and have an associated time-frame then you’re halfway there. So long as they’re also realistic with respect to the delegate’s capability and genuinely within their control then you’ve got it nailed. Once delegated, the job of the manager or leader is not to interfere but instead is to ensure continued executive support, remove obstacles (including yourself if that’s what you’re becoming) and manage by exception.
It should also be said that if you are on the receiving end of micromanagement then there are a few steps you can take to head it off at the pass. Firstly, find out specifically what is wanted and the associated priorities. Then, get it done and provide updates pro-actively – try to anticipate. Thirdly, discuss the separation of ‘what’ and ‘how’ and propose some objective-based measures yourself. Unless your behaviour is unprofessional or there is a specific opportunity for personal development, there should be no reason for the ‘how’ to be the focus of your discussions. Finally, ask for objective feedback so you can improve and align yourself with expectations and begin to manage them in others.
The benefits are huge. If people understand what is required of them, how it connects with the bigger picture and that they are being trusted to get it done, the results can be astounding. Morale remains high and the motivation to do a good job is unimpeded. Moreover, if this is accompanied by a support infrastructure that focuses on enabling success by removing blocks, securing resources and growing capabilities then you’re going to enjoy a positive and productive working environment for sure.
It’s really not that hard. Take some time to reflect, ask for feedback and focus on measurable objectives. Require accountability and provide the environment to nurture it.
“The great leaders are like the best conductors – they reach beyond the notes to the music within the players.” – Blaine Lee