Monday, July 07, 2014

Overcoming Micromanagement, part 5 (A Work-Related Post)

Welcome to the final installment of my series on micromanagement. Links at the bottom to the previous parts.

So, let's flip to the other side. You've been reading along this week and thought "hmmm... problem... I *might* be a micromanager."

Most don't know they are, but if you think you are, you probably are. That's good. Admitting it is the first step to making the change.

If you are micromanaging:
  • you don't trust them to do it right
  • you haven't explained the process well enough
  • you haven't explained the "why"
  • you are worried they'll do it wrong and make you look bad
  • you want the credit if they do it right
  • you're trying to make their life miserable so they'll quit
Feel rotten yet? Sorry, tough love. But today's the day we make the change. Today's the day we stand up and say "No more!"

You won't fix micromanagement in a day. In some cases, you may wish to speak to the person you suspect you're micromanaging, to try to get their read on the situation. It may be extremely uplifting to hear that your micromanager recognizes the situation and is working to change it. In other cases, if they didn't feel micromanaged, they'll wonder if you're neurotic or lacking in confidence. Tread carefully.

You aren't sure they'll do it right, do it the way you want it done, do it in a way that won't ultimately make you look bad. Is this a process governed by very specific rules, or is there an opportunity for freedom, exploration, trial and error? If the process has an opportunity for leeway, for improvement, give the subordinate specific challenges to make things better, to improve something, to optimize something. Pose it as a challenge. Someone worth their weight will rise to the occasion, emboldened by the confidence you have in them. Start small if you have to, this will be new for both of you.

If the process is specific and rigid, it's important that this is well and clearly understood. Some people thrive in this environment. They don't need someone breathing down their neck every second of the day, though. Look to see if proper controls and metrics are in place to guarantee consistency of delivery. If not, look to the subordinate to help define and create them. This gives them a chance to be a part of the solution.

If you're worried about how your peers or supervisors will perceive your subordinate's work - how it will reflect on you - then you've not done enough to champion your team. While it's true that you should take the blame for the failures of your team and you should give all the credit to your team for their successes, if your supervisors have no clue about who's on your team or how they contribute, then you haven't done enough championing. The more your supervisors see real human beings working for you, the more they recognize that even your best leadership will sometimes result in team failures. Just make sure there's great communication with your team to spot trending issues early and that they feel empowered to fix problems or to escalate quickly. And if they escalate quickly, respond quickly.

Lastly, think about what the rewards and motivations are - how your subordinates know if they are performing to expectations, how they know if they've succeeded or failed. If their only motivation is to avoid you breathing down their necks, they will never take risks, they will never work harder, they will never be motivated to make things better. But if you encourage them, recognize them, celebrate their achievements with them in front of their peers, your peers and your supervisors, they will see an environment where good happens - where things are constantly working towards making things better. And that is to everyone's benefit.

But if you're simply trying to make someone's life miserable because you want them to quit, look in the mirror - that's the person you should be firing.

Overcoming Micromanagement

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