Now, step back. Take a deep breath. Re-read that again and insert your own name in place of “they” and picture your supervisor saying that about you. Whew! Takes on a whole new perspective, right? You may be saying, “Yeah, but. He can count on me! She knows I will do it right, on time, and the most efficient way possible! They are lucky to have me; they don’t have incompetent and unreliable people working for them like I do!”
If either of the paragraphs struck a chord of familiarity for you, you may benefit from continued reading. You may be a micro-manager. Leaders that use this approach to get things done are not really managing. You are not leading. You may be getting things done on time and error-free. But, you are accomplishing this through control, not by inspiring and leading your team. You are pleasing your superiors or your suppliers – but at what cost? When a micro-manager is present, there are team members feeling devalued, disrespected and resentful. Energy, creativity, resourcefulness, productivity, efficiency, engagement…these power words will not be witnessed from team members working with a micro-manager!
There is also a significant personal cost when you are insistent on controlling everything and everyone around you. The weighty time burden that this short-sighted and insecure approach demands will deflate your energy and will limit what you have available for other projects, strategic planning and building your business or advancing your career goals.
I will share my tips to avoid this dreaded label and methods to eliminate your micro-management style if you are guilty of this now. The benefits will be huge! You will enjoy working with team members that want to contribute, who are inspired to do their best work while employing creative and resourceful strategies. Their attitudes will improve, their interactions with one another and with you will generate camaraderie, respect and job satisfaction.
Last week I received feedback from the management team that I support; a survey our HR department circulates for employees to fill out as a routine performance evaluation. Their decision to fill out the survey is completely voluntary. I was humbled to receive some incredibly positive remarks made about working with me, and having me as a supervisor/leader. These strategies work! The employee longevity within these divisions is high, the service delivery quality is consistently rated as exceeding expectations by our stakeholders, and the outcome of licensing surveys is commendable in our industry! These outcomes are the result of an energized team that feels valued, contributes knowing that they are respected and that they make a difference. My intent in sharing this is to illustrate that I personally use and believe in these leadership techniques, and I have witnessed and had others comment on the effectiveness of these approaches.
It saddens me when I hear my friends and family share situations where their supervisor has made decisions (or the lack of), or has made remarks that are demoralizing, disrespectful, and convey distrust or arrogance and superiority. It has been my observation that often leaders who assume this overbearing and controlling approach are often insecure in their own skill set and confidence. The person may feel threatened by others’ confidence, skills or natural aptitudes and/or intelligence. Control is then exercised as a defense mechanism.
As a rule, the human race is inherently good! We want to please. We strive to adapt and conform. We want to perform well and have an innate need to contribute and to then feel value. Recall your first job? How about the first 5 jobs? Didn’t you feel excitement when you were hired? Didn’t you awaken on your first day, anxious and excited to start? How long after you were hired did it take you to figure out which co-workers were more challenging to work with? Or, which supervisor(s) had a reputation of being a great boss or a boss that had no respect and whom others spoke of behind his or her back?
I am certain that you recall, with clarity, negative remarks or criticisms made to you by co-workers or a supervisor, and the emotions that they wrought. Instead, let’s be leaders who energize and validate those that we support! Join me in cultivating a work environment that encourages others to respect and appreciate unique talents and attributes, and that promotes contributions from all team members.
Let it be your goal today to build a team that enjoys what they do, who they do it with, and knows with conviction that they are an integral and respected team member whose ideas and contributions are valued, encouraged and recognized!
- You develop trust. As with any relationship, trust is integral. Without it, there is no basis for meaningful interaction. Trust that your employees are competent, efficient, resourceful and creative. Trust that when you delegate a task or project to them, they will deliver. They will come through.
Trust needs to be reciprocal. Cultivate trust by offering praise, recognizing and appreciating efforts. Work with them, not above or against them, both figuratively and literally. Demonstrate your interest in their ideas by encouraging his and her feedback on how to approach a project. Ask them what tools or resources they need to accomplish the goal. These actions will develop trust.
- You believe in your team. Action follows thought. My favorite inspirational quote, from the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change” applies here. Begin looking at your employees the way you want them to be. Believe that they are capable, dedicated and reliable.
Looking at the situation and looking at each team member differently is sure to change your approach. You will likely choose different words, and different methods that will develop that preferred work culture. Verbally affirm your belief in them; let them know you feel they can and will do a good job; praise them when appropriate. Delegate more responsibility to team members, and more space to do it their way, not your way. Retain your position as leader, without defining how it must be done.
- You assess skills. Each of us possesses innate skills and talents, and knowledge and skills that are developed through experience and education. Look at each person, and assess what that person contributes. What are those skills and talents that seem to come effortlessly? What are the things he seems to enjoy? What are the areas she seems to know so much about, and shares with her co-workers? Capitalize on individual interests!
With a strong analysis of skills, talents and knowledge, you can now better delegate tasks and projects that are best suited for an individual, and you can offer more space, allowing freedom to employ their ideas, systems, and approaches. This will increase motivation, personal connection and ownership of the task, and is sure to increase morale and job satisfaction.
- You demonstrate respect. Nothing squashes a relationship like arrogance and superiority. The dictator approach does not work. Your position does set you apart as the leader, but it does not give you license to believe you have the only or the best way to accomplish goals. Instead, foster respect and a team spirit.
Give a clearly defined assignment or goal. Supply the necessary resources, solicit suggestions, bolster team spirit with encouragement and recognition, offer assistance and support, and reward achievement. These actions from you will make them feel valued, which will in turn reciprocate respect for you.
- You improve communication. Many times, a resentful team that is feeling devalued is also not receiving effective, positive or timely communication. This lack of effective communication results in unclear goals, assumptions that may not be true, or negative and unproductive communication.
Provide positive and clear direction that includes your expectations. Establish timelines to check in with you for various steps to assess quality and productivity, while also providing an opportunity for them to communicate the need for resources or complications that have been encountered which may necessitate a new goal timeline. Provide adequate positive feedback to each individual, as well as to the entire team.
Boundaries at work are important. Professional relationships can become strained when a personal connection overlaps. Thus, professional communication is critical. Yet, we must be human too! It is equally important to foster a connection that allows the leader to be approachable, personable, and comfortable. This is accomplished through communication. Share humor. Laugh together. Be interested in them as a person. Get to know what is important to them. What motivates them? Share a few things about yourself. Communicate acceptance and interest with a smile, eye contact, and an approachable, positive demeanor.
- You listen. Chances are, if you are feeling the need to micromanage your team, they do not feel like you listen to them. All effective leaders know the value of listening to others. They know that giving up 3 minutes to listen may avoid 30 minutes of conflict resolution later. They recognize that if they listen, the employees will feel less need to engage in back talk, gossip, and other negative and unproductive discussions.
Do you feel like your team is insubordinate? Do they zing come-backs at you in response to directives? When was the last time that you stopped what you were doing, asked that person to meet with you, and then asked them to tell you what was troubling them? And, ask them with great sincerity, what it is they would like you to do or say differently? It is important that this be asked with a guarantee of no retaliation or discipline, but asked with a heartfelt desire to increase understanding and work relations. Or, you check your pride at the door, and then offer an opportunity to complete anonymous surveys soliciting their feedback. Ask them. Then Listen. Then Implement Change. Your need to micromanage will surely disappear.
- You create cohesiveness. Sometimes, leaders feel the need to micromanage when a team is not cohesive and there is conflict among the team. Perhaps cliques have been formed that are taking sides on varied matters. This can be caused by ineffective leadership, by team members feeling devalued, or by a peer attempting to take control over the others.
Cohesiveness starts with communication. Meet with the individuals and the cliques (versus the whole group) to discuss feelings and concerns. Reduce conflict by reassigning tasks and pairing individuals or groups differently, if indicated. If they expressed there was too much to do, or too little time, or not enough resources then use that feedback to make change where needed to restore cohesiveness. If one individual is causing the disharmony or negativity, talk privately, set goals, and if needed reprimand or remove from the team. If left unchecked, one person’s negativity can disable an entire team by reducing morale and eroding cohesion.
I have been a member of multi-disciplinary teams for over 30 years, and as a leader for over 2 decades. Over time I have learned many skills through mistakes and implementation – yes, sometimes unsuccessful! It has been my experience that the number 1 way to avoid the need to micromanage is to screen and hire the right individuals! You will believe your new hire has the skills, talents and knowledge needed, you will trust him to perform the job, and you, as an effective leader will listen, communicate and show respect, which will foster a cohesive, productive and reliable team. You have just eliminated the need to micromanage!
Have you ever felt the need to micro-manage a team? Or, have you worked with a supervisor who micromanages? Tell me about it in the comments below! I would love to hear your experiences, and how you handled the situation. We can learn together from each other. To Your Success!