Monday, June 30, 2014

Overcoming Micromanagement, part 1 (A Work-Related Post)

This started as a blog post but I kept writing and writing, so now it's a 5-part series. Welcome to part 1. Other parts to follow in the next few days.

I have not had too many opportunities to experience micromanagement. I don't feel I've been micromanaged too much in my career and I don't think I've had too many cases where I've been a micromanager. However, this could be a false assumption as most times when a person is micromanaging, they are unaware that they are doing so. Micromanagement occurs when the person in a supervisory role either distrusts the subordinate or bullies the subordinate.

What is micromanagement and why do people micromanage?

In some cases, the supervisor is narcissistic: when the subordinate does well, the supervisor can take credit; if the subordinate fails, the supervisor has a place to point the blame. Or, the supervisor may rightly or wrongly believe that the performance of the subordinate will reflect directly on the supervisor.

In some rare cases of a brand built around a particular individual, there's a greater chance this could occur, but not to the degree that the brand icon believes. In some cases, the individual may place too high an importance on themselves or not give their customers enough credit to be able to differentiate.

This is the worst when someone has had the spotlight thrust on them and it's not their leadership but their charisma that keeps them there. This is where you will see cases in which the supervisor will reach down the org chart and micromanage beyond their direct reports to their reports' reports and even lower beyond that. This perpetuates the brand icon but creates an incredibly hostile place to work. In a few rare cases, it's the opposite - the desire to see the subordinate do well, but often that's still narcissistic or to make up for some deficiency in themselves, such as the parent/child relationship where the child is pushed hard or the parent does the homework for the child.

In other cases, the supervisor has trouble letting go: it may have been a role they previously did, promoted for doing it so well. With inadequate training to lead, or with an incorrect understanding of why they were promoted (or if they were promoted by ineffectual leadership), they may see the key to their success in keeping things exactly as they were, instead of looking to the subordinate to grow, blossom and shine on their own.

In some cases, the supervisor may end up doing the work themselves, often from impatience (and sometimes because it's easier than the work they should be doing.) In a few rare cases, it may be an attempt to get the subordinate to quit. Talk about a spineless cowardly bully.

Sadly, when this occurs, not only is it a highly stressful and discouraging environment for the subordinate, but in these cases, the supervisor is often focused on unnecessary details while missing the bigger picture. I think you even find the idea in the Bible: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3, NIV)

So... why do we experience micromanagement, can it be overcome and how?

Overcoming Micromanagement
  • Day 1: What is micromanagement and why do people micromanage?
  • Day 2: Why do we experience micromanagement?
  • Day 3: Can you overcome micromanagement?
  • Day 4: How do you overcome micromanagement?
  • Day 5: What if you're a micromanager?

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Sift (June 27, 2014)

It's been awhile since I've posted one of these. But here's five links that captured my attention recently that I wanted to share.

SETH GODIN -- Deconstructing Generosity

KLEINER, PERKINS, CAUFIELD AND BYERS -- Internet Trends 2014. Every few years someone clues me in that there's a new IT out there. Always an informative and dense read.

ENGADGET -- Broadcasters' backup plans for thwarting Aereo include live TV streaming Jerks. Oh... wait... That was my idea.

ENGADGET -- US Supreme Court rules Aereo's streaming service is illegal under copyright law. Jerks.

INC. -- Cups: A Coffee Startup Taking on Starbucks

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


You know when you encounter something (taste, smell, thought) so unpleasant that you scrunch up your face and bleat out "erk"? You know the face... the kind your mom warns you will stick.  I had that today. And then when I told someone else what had caused my face, they involuntarily did it, too.

I was reading an article from the other Robert X. Cringely today and he mentioned two companies that shouldn't exist:

Yo - an iPhone app that lets you send "Yo" to others who have the app installed. One million dollars in venture capital was thrown at it after it reached 50,000 users who'd sent a combined four million Yos. That's a quarter a Yo. And we thought cell phone companies were overcharging for text messaging. And that's before it was discovered the app was so poorly built that you could find the phone number of any user and sent them unsolicited Yos or other words or even music that apparently would play on their own.

Speaking of quarters, here's a subscribe-and-lose offering for you... Washboard will let you subscribe to a service that will mail you quarters on a monthly basis. Let me repeat that. You can subscribe to have someone mail you a roll of quarters.  $10 worth of quarters for $15 or $20 for $27. Nice looking website. I used to get quarters from the grocery store or any bank or change machines or the manager's office at our apartment complex. Before they switched over to the reloadable keycard. Quarters? Really?

It finally dawned on me. It's not that I can't come up with any good ideas, it's that I don't have the nerve to foist absolutely horrid ideas into the marketplace where supremely ill-advised people will undoubtedly fall for them.

I guess I just have too much respect for my fellow humans.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

120: Misdirect

"There he is again!" shouted one of my guests.

We turned to look as the guy ducked behind the bushes. But it was quite clear that he was looking in on our party from our neighbor's driveway.

I walked out the front door and shouted for someone to call security. I walked up to the man. He looked down at me, I looked up at him. I shouted "Tan pants, light blue windbreaker" as he started for me. As he got within range, he looked as if to say "Come at me." I continued to shout back descriptions to the guests spilling onto the front porch.

"5 foot 2 inches tall!" I shouted.

He looked puzzled, stopped and sputtered "Hey man, I aint no 5'2" - I'm at least six..."

And that was when I yelled "SWEEP THE LEG!" and kicked him hard in the shin. Sure, I didn't actually sweep the leg, but it knocked him off balance, I pushed him over and lept onto him, twisting his arm behind him as a few of my guests arrived to help subdue him.

"120" is the umbrella under which I place my creative writing (it's been a long time!) - it refers to one of the practices: writing for 120 seconds on a single topic with no chance to go back and edit. This particular effort was the attempt to retell a recent dream I had where I was pretty awesome. Click here to read more 120s.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Review -- The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress (Abandoned)

The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress by

Review by ()

This was the first book I read under my new policy. I decided that I was adding more books to my list than I'd ever read and that the last book I read took a monh to chew my way through. I decided that each book would get a week to prove itself -- either I would read it every day and be committed to it, or I would abandon it within a week and pick up another one. If this had happened after I'd read this book, it might have suggested the book helped. But since it happened before I read this book, I think it suggested that I'm no stranger to the techniques in this book.

I'm guessing that a recommendation in So Good They Can't Ignore You (My Review) led me to this book as that book's author wrote the foreward for this book.

However, I abandoned this book. I started on Sunday night and read chapter 1. She begins to describe the different elements you want to keep in balance and presents what some sample days might look like for different kinds of people. She also described the ways time management fails us and invites the reader to read the book in whatever works for them, making call-outs to specific chapters, a pattern repeated in the rest of what I read. The next day, I read chapter 2, a very helpful chapter on the psychology of why you suck at time management. I would recommend chapter 2 to everyone. This was an insightful chapter and helped me even recognize a few things for myself. At this point, I was tracking with the book.

However, by day 3, I was reading while I took my mid-day walk and found myself leafing through the book. In 15 minutes I'd flipped through the remaining pages and decided there was no need to invest further in this book.

The author is a successful time management coach. She's, no doubt, helped quite a few people. She knows her stuff. But I think where she's probably a very engaging and effective consultant in person, the book falls flat. It might be difficult for it not - in person, her coaching is going to be tailored for the audience whereas the book has to work on all levels to a wide variety of audiences at different stages of their time management journey. For lack of a better word. Sorry. "Journey" feels lazy or at least overused.

Anyhow, if you've followed this blog for any length of time, you saw my year-long effort to look at my own time management and task management. Where I had hoped the book would be practical, it was more psychology. Where I'd been curious about specific tactics, I didn't find anything new. Where I'd hoped for relevancy, I found generic information that I do not think is accurate. How is it not accurate? When you write to a wide audience, you can't specific. But when you speak in generalizations, that's ultimately untrue in one way shape or form for your audience.

The lie is that you are in control.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

How to: Replace the heating element in your oven

Our trusty stove recently stopped stoving and transformed into another pantry. While we really could use the space, but really, we needed it to pre-heat, heat, bake, broil and all that kind of good stuff. As near as we could tell, it was new when we moved in.

Well, it was heating, but only a little bit and Lori had what looked like a fire or a sparkler. Yep, look at that, the heating element had failed. So, time to Google. The heating element is metal tube that contains insulation and a wire. Electricity is applied to the wire, encounters resistance and heats up.

Eventually the insulation may wear out and the internal wire will touch the outer tube and cause a short. There may be a brief flare-up that often looks like a sparkler.

Sure enough, there it is. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

A little more research and found a video on how to do the repair.   (Why do a blog post if there are videos out there? Two reasons - first, they didn't show close-ups. Second, those guys were pros. I'm not. If I can do it, you can do it.)

They also offered to sell the part. Unfortunately, they wanted $40 + s/h.  So...

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Book Review -- The Sign and the Seal: The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant

The Sign and the Seal: The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant by
Review by ()

I'm not sure how exactly I ended up with this book. In the end, it was offered to me by a friend from church and I accepted it and they brough it to church and handed it to me, but I can't recall what I said originally that made them think I would be interested (but I was).

This was a long book that took me a long time to read. I suppose it had to be written even considering how long the journey took him. The book chronicles the author's journeys across the Middle East researching what the Ark of the Covenant is, why the Bible stops referring to it (though never mentions what happened to it) and what probably did really happen to it.

Ethiopians claim the ark was not only a Biblical story, but an actual thing which did exists and still exists to this day and that it is located in the city of Axum.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Is this thing on?

Do they just favorite #healthy? 

Sometimes it feels like on social media people don't really pay attention. 

Monday, June 02, 2014

Oh, Snap

If my phone is seconds away from spontaneously combusting, why on earth is taking a snapshot of the screen even something you can still do?

(And why are Bluetooth and Location Services still active?)

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Yes and No (Life with #Autism)

We've been observing more spoken language with Ben. It's a really slow progress, and I think we can consider "no" crossed off the list - he'll use it to announce displeasure, defiance and sometimes to answer questions in the negative.

But "yes" (and "yeah") are newer. At night when getting him ready for bed I'll use iPrompts Pro to offer him the choice of crib or bed and Verbal Me Free for yes/no questions like "Do you want guys (stuff animals) in bed with you?" and then "Do you want your monkey/puppy/Mickey/etc."  He'll usually press yes or no. Not always with care and sometimes just a swipe at the screen but if I guide his hand, he'll indicate what he wants.

Today there were two instances where he answered me affirmatively verbally. I can't remember one of them, but the other was pretty cool: I had offered him a pair of gray socks and a pair of blue socks. He took the gray pair and I confirmed "Ok, gray socks." As I went to put the blue ones away he said "Other" and I said, "Oh, you want the blue socks" and he responded "yeah."

It may not seem like much if you're parenting a typically-developing child, but for Ben, this is a huge step and exciting for us.