Avoiding Micro-managing

Question:  I just found out that I’ve been promoted to manage my team.  My whole career, I’ve suffered by being micromanaged by high control, demanding bosses.  How can I avoid micromanaging my new staff?

Alice Waagen says:  In the last three decades that I’ve been in the workforce — as an employee, manager, and now a business owner who coaches managers — I’ve seen a lot of managers in action. Sometimes their style is to be a micro-managing maniac. Other times, they are the invisible manager who dumps assignments then walks away.

The truth is that we all have different work styles and needs. If you feel weekly updates are essential, one of your employees will feel like they are being micro-managed, another employee will feel weekly updates as not enough contact and feel abandoned.

Good managers build relationship with their staff over time.  That said, here are the critical 3 things to do to get the relationship off on the right foot and avoid negative name-calling:

Communicate Your Brains Out.  In most cases where there is conflict, the boss never had an open discussion about what they expect from their employees, or how they prefer to manage.  As a result, staff members have to guess what is expected of them. If they guess wrong (clairvoyance is often not listed in a job description) they tend to get corrected at every step and feel “micro-managed”. You need to openly discuss your need to be informed and your expectations on results. You need to encourage your staff to honestly share their comfort level with management interaction, and be open to negotiating a middle ground.

Make Sure that They Step Up to the Bar.  Your staff needs to take responsibility for their end of the bargain. If they are feeling micromanaged, they need to say, “What can I do to let you know I can run with this? How can I make your job easier by doing my job better, faster, and more efficiently?” By actively working to build a relationship based on trust, you and your employees need to match your words with action. So if they promise to deliver something by a certain date, make sure that they do. If you promise to be hands-off, then do so.

Agree on How to Disagree.  While you are new and the relationships are fresh, meet with your staff and share with them how you will be communicating corrective feedback: face-to-face, timely, and clearly.  You will not stockpile up feedback then let loose, you will not be vague and let them figure it out for themselves (or hear it back channel).  Commit to and model how you will (and how you want them) to share the good as well and the bad.

Do these actions and you won’t be called a micromanager.  You may be called a good boss instead.