Micro management can be defined as a management style with excessive attention to or control over minor details and can be easy to slip into, especially when we're busy or managing a new team, project or employee. A micromanager closely monitors and assesses each step that an employee takes when working on a task or project.
While this definition sounds very black and white, micromanagement is quite a grey area that even some of the best managers can fall into by accident. It’s a common management complaint heard from employees everywhere, with extremely damaging consequences if used inappropriately.
It can impact not only the manager’s team but also the overall business, with drops in employee morale and staff retention common. Employees can lose confidence in their ability to achieve or become so disengaged that they perform at the bare minimum considered necessary. It’s also highly inefficient, with micromanagers spending much of their time on practically doing their employee’s jobs for them.
Despite the problems of micromanagement, it can be appropriate to manage employees closely in certain situations. When an employee is working in a job where they do not yet have the skills required or where mistakes are costly and can have a big impact on the business, then careful supervision may be needed until they are able to complete the job on their own. However, it is a management style that should generally be used over a shorter period of time and with caution.
The first step to avoid micromanaging your team is to recognise the danger signs. In general, micromanagers:
- Resist delegating;
- Immerse themselves in the projects of others;
- Discourage others from making decisions without their consultation;
- Have an overemphasis on correcting small mistakes, rather than looking at the big picture
Micromanagement often stems from a lack of trust in your employees’ ability to perform, so here are my top tips to avoid micromanagement and feel that you can step back:
- Don’t think you need to stop keeping track of progress - Set regular check-in points and milestones to ensure projects and tasks are on the road to success, and encourage staff to come to you for guidance in the meantime.
- Reiterate what it means to succeed in your business –Spend time with the team to drive home key organisational and cultural values and ensure that each team member is living and breathing these values in their work, to a more positive result.
- Increase accountability with performance benchmarks – Ensure your team feel accountable for their own decisions and work, by introducing goals and KPI’s, on a team, individual or department basis.
- Empower your employees to see them more motivated - Give them the authority to make decisions on their own, and gradually increase the scope of those decisions. If they’re not quite up to this stage yet, consider asking them for a recommendation on decisions and use this to influence the final choice.
- Recognise your employees for a job well done, when they reach significant milestones or success. This will help to empower them and enable them to work better on their own.
- Learn to give feedback constructively and honestly - your employees will appreciate it and you’ll be helping them to develop as professionals. Regular, timely feedback works best.
- Learn to trust your staff to deliver. Take a step back - you will often be surprised by what they can achieve!
Striking the right balance between delegating, monitoring, and checking on progress is an ongoing challenge for every manager. Don’t be afraid to micromanage if the situation calls for a closer management approach (i.e. in the case of a new employee, underperformance, etc), but be sure to gradually reduce supervision as time goes on or risk reduced efficiency, morale, and performance.
Paula Maidens is Managing Director of Recruitment Coach, a unique coaching and consulting firm for small-medium businesses, specialising in recruitment and retention techniques.