4 Steps to Overcome Micro-Management

I read an interesting comment in an article today.  The comment wasn't directed at the challenges and issues surrounding leadership, but it gave me many ideas for application.

Control is rooted in our weakness.

When a person in a leadership position micro-manages, that should be a signal.  The unfortunate problem is that many leaders fail to see that behavior in their middle-managers.  The weak manager can't let the boss see the micro-management any more than he or she can allow the team freedom of movement.

As the leader of an organization or department, it is your responsibility to strengthen your people - all of them.   But what do you do when this micro-manager obstructs your view of their team and their behavior?

  1. Watch out for signs of the problem. Encourage open communication with structured decision making.  That's a tactic I learned from A Contrarian's Guide to Leadership by Steven B. Sample.  Talk to everyone in the organization.  Open your door to anyone.  But learn to "listen gray" as Sample said and avoid making judgments or decisions without honoring the chain-of-command.
  2. Invest in people regardless. Your goal is to create confident, experienced middle managers.  Avoid the temptation to assume they don't have any problems because you don't know about them.  Provide resources and training.  Invest in your middle-managers before you see trouble.  Find some creative training that you can provide cheaply.  Ask people in this forum if you don't have any ideas.  There are many new ways of inexpensively giving your middle-managers resources, encouragement and confidence.
  3. Have the courage to address problem.  The word encourage means simply that - put courage into them.  Put courage in your middle managers.  Arrange time to coach them and ask them about their team as a whole and listen for 3rd party pronouns and ways they separate themselves from their team's performance.
  4. Expect them to overcome this.  People micro-manage because they fear the consequences of giving people freedom.  Employees are not free to do what they want, unless they want the business to succeed and they understand their role and what it takes to make that success happen.  Put the courage into them that their people can do the job and that they can lead with freedom.

Put courage in your micro-managers.  Inspire them and encourage them that you will provide the resources (training, experience, room for trial-and-error) for their team to succeed and that they must create the atmosphere for their team to flourish.  Your entire organization will be better for it.

With some persistence, you can encourage most people out of micro-management.  Some won't ever end the practice however.  When that happens, you must take permanent action or you will institutionalize the problem.  And when you create a culture that allows micro-management, only those employees that require micro-management will remain.

Maybe you have experiences with other ideas that will help free people from the felt-need to micro-manage.  Care to share?  All ideas are welcome here.

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