At least 99% of the time, micromanagement is bad. It would be nice if we could wave a magic wand and break the cycle of micromanagement. It would be equally as nice if just recognizing that you were a micromanager was enough to change the behavior. While knowing is part of the battle, micromanagement is an addiction that requires effort to stop. There are several steps I have found useful that can be taken to breaking the addiction of micromanagement

  1. Align organizational perceptions with practices. Part of breaking the cycle is to identify micromanagers. This is a softer form of “naming and shaming.” Naming and shaming is a strong tactic and people tend to shy away from calling people out for bad behavior. Unless the organization recognizes the damage micromanagers are causing they might feel it is OK because they are generating short-term results. The recognition for generating short-term results (by whatever means necessary) creates an addictive feedback loop. Break the feedback loop where being a micromanager is OK. 
  2. Give subordinates a voice. Most evaluations of managers are top-down affairs and are often impacted by recency bias (what have you done for me lately). Subordinates need have a mechanism to safely provide feedback on when judging manager performance. Micromanagers do not always recognize they are a micromanager even though it is obvious from outside. Feedback helps managers (and leaders) to come to grips with their leadership peccadillos. Note — A 360-degree reviews are a useful tool for giving a wide variety of stakeholders a voice in reviewing a manager or leaders performance.
  3. Learn to ask questions rather than giving orders. Even if the manager does not recognize that they are on the micromanager spectrum, shifting from telling people what to do to asking them questions is a powerful tool for empowering people. The book, Turn the Ship Around! by L. David Maquet provides an excellent primer on the topic (Re-Read Saturday Chapter 4). Asking questions empowers subordinates to learn how to address a scenario or solve a problem. Asking questions helps to shift leadership model from micromanagement to a more participative model. When a person is asking questions, they are by definition being less directive. Note: Marquet’s “I Intend” approach is the alter ego of asking questions. The “I intend” techniques distribute the burden of deciding on a course of action and helps subordinates to learn to develop solutions.
  4. Train managers. This is a basic that is often assumed. Assuming that managers know how to manage and lead is a mistake. Every organization should train their managers and leaders on how to manage based on the organization’s values, culture, and expected behaviors. Often first line managers are promoted due to technical prowess rather than leadership and management experience – train them and then provide both coaching and mentoring (make sure the mentors are not micromanagers) to support good behavior.

My father quit smoking cold turkey. His story is that on the day the Armstrong walked on the moon he just stopped (note – there is more to the story 😊). Managers don’t quit micromanagement cold turkey. Feedback reinforces the behavior of micromanager’s behavior. Micromanagement is unlearnable and that is GOOD! It might not be easy but it is possible!

In this theme we will explore:

  1.    Observations of the Definition of Management
  2.    Four Syndromes Leading to Micromanagement
  3.    Are You A Micromanager?
  4.    Micromanagement: Break The Cycle!  *Today*