Most managers value and respect their employees’ skills, expertise, and capabilities. But even the best managers sometimes find themselves slipping into the dreaded role of micromanager—usually when stress levels are high, time is short, and success feels almost out of reach. Managing employees is an ongoing process, and good managers never stop learning. Here are some tips to help you spot trouble and learn to stop your micromanaging tendencies before they have a chance to take hold.
1 – Stop hovering. If you find yourself peering over a teammate’s shoulder, step back and ask yourself a few direct questions: How much time am I spending doing this? Is it just this one employee, or am I doing it to my whole team? Is this really what I should be focusing my time on? If any of your answers point to “control freak,” stop immediately.
2 – Ask fewer questions. That’s right—instead of assuming that you need to request every bit of data you want, you should be relying on your team to keep you informed proactively. Keep in mind that your group doesn’t need to bring everything to your attention; they’re handling much of the daily stuff just fine without your intervention. If you feel that your team’s communication skills are lacking, or that information is only distributed on a reactive basis, you should address that as a separate issue.
3 – Delegate more. Micromanagers are famous for giving tasks away without ever really letting go, and sometimes for not giving tasks away at all. Look at what you’ve delegated and what you’re still handling—if anything on those two lists overlap, step back and let your team do their jobs. And if you’re not delegating enough? Vow to do more, and soon.
4 – Stick to working hours. Some projects require overtime, but constantly pulling employees’ brains back to work after they’ve gone home is just a variation of hovering. If your team is really stretched that thin, it’s time to consider adding staff, scaling back objectives, or otherwise taking some of the pressure off your people.
5 – Empower your team. Are your employees forced to seek approval for every decision, from the big stuff all the way down to day-to-day minutiae? Set up a process that instills responsibility and grants authority based on each staff member’s seniority and experience.
6 – Watch your temper. Getting overly upset or losing your cool with employees is a classic sign of a micromanager. It frequently leads to hovering and incessant questioning, both of which you want to avoid. When you feel something isn’t going well, stop. Take a minute, gather your composure, and remember that your team deserves a leader who can keep their cool.
7 – Take mistakes in stride. Glitches are the siren song of the micromanager—they make it easy to doubt your team’s abilities, assume you have to do everything yourself, and generally make life miserable for those around you. Remember that mistakes happen to the best of us, and unless your team has a track record of poor judgment, you should view them as opportunities to learn how to do things better next time.
8 – Don’t let your boss bring you down. If your boss is a micromanager (or perhaps just a difficult personality), you may find yourself offloading stress by funneling your frustration and anger into your team. It’s a tough position to be in, but you somehow need to separate the way you’re being treated from how you treat your team. If nothing else, use your boss’s example as a reminder of how not to be a leader.