Micromanagement is a key leadership transition issue

Micromanagement is cited by direct reports as one of the most frustrating behaviors that managers struggle with.   And interestingly it is also one of the most common.  Yet as obvious as it may appear, many managers are micromanagers and don’t even realize it.

Why are so many of them unaware? Well for starters, most of them were probably high-performing individual contributors who learned to pay attention to details and deliver top-quality work.  These very qualities were often among the primary reasons they were promoted to a management position in the first place.  However, these qualities or characteristics that made them great as individual contributors can play against them if they don’t change their approach.

Therefore, an important action for every leader to consider is self-reflection.  Ask, “Do I have a tendency to micromanage?” It is always a good idea to ask others for feedback as well.  Self-awareness—recognizing that we have an issue is foundational to improving effectiveness.  Once acknowledgment has taken place, the next step is to ask another question: “Why do I have a tendency to do it?”  This can be tricky as it’s human nature to justify our actions.  Therefore, we need to push back on our assumptions.

Let’s talk about an example.  One of the more common reasons is a lack of trust in direct reports.  In this situation the manager needs to analyze whether or not her lack of trust is legitimate.  In other words, does she have unrealistic expectations?  Is it a desire for control or perfection?  Or is it a legitimate performance issue?  If it is the latter, then it is justified.

However, if it is justified, then communication must play a critical role in helping the employee to understand the reasons behind the need to be more involved.  For example, a new employee typically needs a little additional hand-holding while they get up-to-speed with their new surroundings.  Communicating to that individual, letting them know that you are going to be more hands-on initially, but that your goal is to let them do it on their own as quickly as possible, can go a long way in helping that new employee feel trusted.

For additional information on how we help deal with this issue and other key leadership transition issues, please email us at info@emergegroup.com .