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How to Actually Stop Micromanaging

Micromanagement: PART II


Before you jump into this tactical advice, start with understanding my theory in Part I.


Because I want to spare your red ink pen, I’m going to try to provide some tactical advice on how to make the transition from micromanager to leader, with the big caveat that it will be hard and fraught with setbacks.



Focus on the Vision


When rolling out a new project, don’t immediately dive into the step-by-steps. Schedule a half hour with your team member to simply talk through the goals of the project and how you’ll know if it is successful. Then ask them to put together a detailed guide and run it by you for approval before getting started.


If you just read a “half hour” and are tempted to x out of this window, then I encourage you to dwell on how much time it will take to write step-by-step instructions for every project this employee ever does moving forward.


Ask more Questions


As a leader, 50% of your conversations with team members should involve asking them questions. If it is anything less, you might be a micromanager. [Cue ominous music now.]


Here are some tips for involving your team in the solution, instead of just telling them what to do. As a starting point, why not make it a goal to ask at least one question before providing your own thoughts?


Embrace Differences


Sometimes I’m being shown work and my brain immediately jumps to all the things I would do if this was my task. But doing the work isn’t my task. Through practice, I’ve been able to check that gut reaction and pause before speaking. (Let’s be honest, sometimes I fail at this.)


Before I start voicing all of these thoughts, I try to ask myself, “Well I might prefer it my way, but does it honestly matter?”


If it still gets the job done, then my commentary is likely only necessary 1 out of 5 times. The other times, let it rock.


Provide Context


Every once in a while, I cave and start heavy-editing my team’s work. It could be a powerpoint slide, a data analysis, or a client email. This isn’t necessarily bad. These specific work products are actually a really tangible moment to give useful feedback. But if I’m going to do this, I force myself to take the time to provide the why, either in writing or over the phone.


This approach drives quality but still maintains a large lens. You get the output you want, but you also educate your people on the principles guiding your changes, which is something they can latch onto in future work.


If you don’t provide the context, it can be hard for people to understand how to apply your edits to future work, forcing you to micromanage all over again.


Accept the Possibility of Mistakes


Things are going to go wrong and people are going to mess up. If you’re being honest with yourself, this is a possibility even if you helicopter over the whole workstream.


As a leader, part of your job is to educate against mistakes, mitigate the risk of mistakes, and manage issues with confidence. Having a high functioning, trustworthy team is one of the best ways to achieve these goals.


A Word of Caution


This article is not a hall pass to be uninformed on the details on your business. You will continue to be asked for help on the individual steps, and your “big vision” will need to be grounded in the reality of the work.


Summary


When your team asks you to stop micromanaging, they don’t actually want you to stop caring. Hopefully these tips will help you to provide the support your team needs without trying to do their jobs for them.


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