Micromanaging Limits Leadership Effectiveness
Micromanaging is the tendency of some leaders and managers to exert more control over people and operations than necessary. You can learn to keep this tendency for overcontrol under your control and, thus, improve your effectiveness.
Through much of the twentieth century, budding managers everywhere were taught that the functions of management were: planning, organizing, directing, and controlling. As with any “good” qualities, these activities taken to extreme can be crippling for an organization. This webpage deals with the dangers of overcontrol.
The businesses excesses of the 60’s and 70’s and the subsequent downturn in America’s competitiveness taught us a far better set of action words to describe management and leadership functions: achieve the goal, build the team, and develop the individual.
Many leaders still have the idea, however, that part of their job to carefully “control” their organization. These leaders are highly involved in day-to-day operational decisions, never quite able to relinquish decision-making, even to capable others.
They carefully monitor all spending in their organizations or departments and require approval of all monetary decisions. They want to know exactly what their employees are doing and carefully monitor their work behavior; everyone is expected to obtain permission for anything that deviates from the normal pattern.
At first glance such control may seem like a sensible management strategy. After all, someone has to be responsible – someone has to be “where the buck stops.” The idea of “control” resting entirely or primarily in the manager or leader presupposes that others can or will exert no self-control.
For some managers the motivation behind this kind of managing is worry. “I’m responsible for this department, and if I let up on my control, things could fall apart; then where will I be?”
For other managers, the motivation is arrogance. “Nobody performs the work to my standards, so I need to be out there in the trenches making sure the works gets done correctly; they are simply not capable.”
The Power of the Self-Fulfilling Prophesy
There is a huge body of well-researched knowledge in the social science field on what is called the self-fulfilling prophesy (and often called the Pygmalion effect, in reference to the character in Greek mythology).
This research reveals that in any area of life, if we set an expectation for people (even if that expectation is incorrect), then people tend to act consistently with the expectation. All of us tip people off, with many subtle and unconscious cues, about what our expectations of them are. They, then, also often unconsciously, live up to our expectations.
How does this relate to micromanaging and the tendency of some leaders to micromanage?
Employees behave according to the manager’s expectations of them. Low expectations yield low performance, thus further reinforcing the notion that the manager has to watch over them at all times and carefully control their behavior because they, obviously, can’t or won’t control it themselves.
Have you ever worked for someone like that? If you have, you know its crippling effect on organizational performance and morale. The overcontrolling manager fails to extend trust, therefore “proving” (in the self-fulfilling prophesy fashion) that people are untrustworthy.
The micromanaging boss usually expects a great deal of himself but expects very little of others. All the accountability and, therefore, all the control rests on his “unusually capable” shoulders; others are not to be fully trusted to make decisions without his blessings.
The performance of those who work for you may be less dependent on them and more dependent on you, the manager. The manager’s expectations become the employees’ performance.
Micromanagers with low expectations of others, BEWARE. Expect more of them; encourage them to have powerful expectations of themselves. Knowing that you believe in them and hold them to a higher standard is vital in improving their performance.
Your good employees do not appreciate being micromanaged; this kind of management style erodes their confidence and their motivation. It tends to drive the good ones away. Micromanaging brings everyone to a common denominator of mediocre performance.
Improving Leadership Skills:
Improve your leadership skills, and reduce your tendencies to micromanage with the following strategies:
Choose your most trusted employee, and turn full responsibility for some process or project completely over to them. Start out by releasing small things if you need to. Let them do it their way. Remember that people who are given the gift of trust are reluctant to risk that trust and will usually go out of their way to live up to your expectations.
Good communication will reduce your need to micromanage. Frequently hold individual feedback sessions with your employees in which you, first, compliment them for something they have achieved.
Second, provide feedback and ask questions about an issue that concerns you. Third, finish your discussion with another acclamation. By finishing your coaching sessions on a positive note, you preserve your employee’s dignity and commitment to the job. Provide opportunity for your employee to participate in an learn new things in the organization, thus further developing him or her into the type of employee who is even more capable and trustworthy and has less need to be closely managed, even if you are a worrier.
Micromanaging clamps the lid on people too tightly. It strangles them before than can to rise to the top. A more empowering style of management, far from threatening your job, allows you to harness not only your own power of control but the high caliber of behavior and self-control that your employees will produce for you if given a chance.
Adding everyone’s potential to your own will dramatically increase performance. A little trust goes a long way. Use the self-fulfilling prophesy effect to your advantage: expect great things of your people, and get out of their way so they can do them!
improving leadership skills page.