Are you a micromanager?

Employee performance is directly linked to their sense of ownership, commitment, and accountability for the success of their organization. Their passion, ownership, commitment, and accountability is reduced when they feel distrusted, disrespected, and/or under-valued by their managers and/or by the senior leadership of their company.

By micromanaging their people, managers generate an environment of compliance and fear, which causes employees to play it safe and “cover their behinds” instead of stepping up and going beyond the call of duty to drive progress, overcome obstacles and pursue opportunities.

Most managers who micromanage their employees suppress their spirit and performance. That in itself is a bad thing. But, it is also the wrong focus. Instead of trying to control their people, managers should be providing leadership and confidence to their team; they should be highlighting their strategic objectives and priorities and inspiring their employees to take them on. They should also be ensuring that their people have the wherewithal to execute and succeed.

In fact, micromanagement puts in motion a destructive vicious circle: The manager relates to his people as uncommitted, incompetent and/or unreliable. The people, in turn, play it safe and don’t take ownership, risk, and accountability. Results suffer. This confirms the manager’s point of view and he continues to micromanage.

Most of the time the issue lies with the manager. Managers who micromanage and control their people do it because of their own insecurity and fear of failure and not because their employees are, in fact, incompetent, uncommitted, or unreliable.

If you think about it, the only time micromanaging can be an effective management strategy is when the manager truly trusts his or her people, AND their people know it. In this condition, people won’t feel belittled and disempowered by their manager’s inspection of their actions and achievement.

If you are a manager (or part of a team) and you want to strike a healthier balance between trusting and inspecting without suppressing your reports or peers, you must put the following building blocks in place and manage them effectively:

  1. Build a team that you genuinely trust in terms of commitment and competency. Use this foundation to establish a dynamic of authentic, honest, and courageous communication within your team.
  2. Communicate and enroll/align your team members around your future vision and objectives. Make sure all your team members clearly understand and are on the same page about your shared future. Make sure they feel genuinely passionate about it, committed to it, and accountable for it.
  3. Orient your team members around results and deliverables rather than tasks and activities. In order to build an environment of real accountability. Accountability can only exist when people publically promise clear, measurable results, and they expect to be held accountable for them.
  4. Ensure that roles, responsibilities, expectations, and processes are completely clear to all team members. This is to eliminate the chance of ambiguity, confusion, excuses, or the mischief of the popular finger-pointing game.
  5. Put in place a simple and effective mechanism/process for tracking all key commitments, deliverables, and promised results. Make sure to check-in on a monthly and quarterly basis.
  6. Lastly, recognize people who step up in attitude, behavior, performance and/or results. Don’t be stingy or lazy about recognizing the people who step up. If you apply the same passion for recognizing people as you do to micromanaging them, it will help you strike a positive balance.

If someone is not performing up to an agreed-upon standard or expectation, you must be willing to have a straight and honest conversation with them.  This conversation will either need to elevate the individual to a higher level of performance or make it clear that they are not up for the task, and they should be replaced. But, make sure to give people a real opportunity to understand, own, and do something about their poor performance.

If you build a strong team dynamic, where people own the game and communicate in an honest and direct way, you will either not need to micromanage, or if you still continue to inspect on a regular basis, people will not feel intimidated, invalidated or discouraged by it.

Always remember – that in the absence of genuine ownership, commitment, and honest communication, no amount of micromanagement will be effective anyway.

 

Founder and President of Quantum Performance Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in generating total alignment and engagement in organizations.

His work has encompassed a broad range of industries including banking, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, real estate, retail, startups and non-profits.

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