Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 4, Issue 1;   January 7, 2004: There Are No Micromanagers

There Are No Micromanagers

by

If you're a manager who micromanages, you're probably trying as best you can to help your organization meet its responsibilities. Still, you might feel that people are unhappy — that whatever you're doing isn't working. There is another way.

Despite a wide variety of management styles, most managers have two things in common. They're pretty sure they aren't micromanagers, and most have micromanaged somebody sometime.

I'm glad he isn't my bossSome of us know that we micromanage (or don't); others have some doubts. Here are Four Warning Signs of micromanagement:

  • When you charter a task, you feel a strong need to specify or approve exactly how it will be done.
  • You feel unsure about your understanding of what your people do, but you think you're concealing it pretty well.
  • You require status reports far more frequently than you need for constructive intervention.
  • You're so busy that delays happen frequently, while people wait for your input or sign-off.

You can change only
what you can acknowledge
If two or more of these indicators fit you, you probably feel that you're coping in the best way you can with the shortcomings of the people you supervise. But if their incompetence is a real factor, do something else — micromanagement isn't the answer. Training, transfer, reassignment, or replacement work much better.

Sometimes, simply stepping out of the way works. Usually, if you just let people do their jobs, and let them make some mistakes, you'll be delighted with the results.

If you really want to stop micromanaging, here are six tips to put you on the path to a more peaceful and successful management experience.

Tune in to your own behavior
Becoming aware that you're micromanaging is difficult. Watch for the Four Warning Signs.
Hold a conversation with yourself
You'll be changing your behavior, but you can change only what you acknowledge. Gently, with understanding, tell yourself about your micromanaging.
Choose something different
The only way to change is to change. Promise yourself that you'll do things differently soon, and set a realistic start date.
Tell someone about it
Telling a real person seals the deal. Tell your coach, or tell a close confidant who isn't associated with your position at work. Include your start date and a description of your plans.
Do it
Start managing something small in a new way. When you make a task assignment, tell people the what, and let them work out the how, with help from you only if they ask. Be careful, though, because even if they're complaining about micromanagement, they might be uncomfortable with the change.
Be available to others
When you've made some real progress, look around your organization. Are any of your people micromanaging? How can you guide them in new directions without micromanaging them?

As you carry out this change, take care not to micromanage yourself. Focus not on how you change, but on what you change; not on lapses, but on successes. Remind yourself that there are no micromanagers — there are only managers who micromanage, and they can change. You will be proof of that. Go to top Top  Next issue: Email Antics: III  Next Issue

For a survey of tactics for managing pressure, take a look at the series that begins with "Managing Pressure: Communications and Expectations," Point Lookout for December 13, 2006.

For more about micromanagement, see "When Your Boss Is a Micromanager," Point Lookout for December 5, 2001; "Are You Micromanaging Yourself?," Point Lookout for November 24, 2004; "How to Tell If You Work for a Nanomanager," Point Lookout for March 7, 2007; "Reverse Micromanagement," Point Lookout for July 18, 2007; and "Lateral Micromanagement," Point Lookout for September 10, 2008.

Reader Comments

John DeMassi
How about an article on the anti-micromanager (the hands-off manager)? I feel at times that I am providing not enough management to my employees. Obviously, the way you have written this article, I could be in denial. Being who I am and knowing my experiences, I will first doubt that thought.
I actually remember times and situations where I was a micromanaging nightmare. I remember how painful it was to force people to do it the way that I would do it and I even had reasons/excuses why it was the right thing to do at that time.
Now, I try to hire people who can run with a set of tasks and not "bother" me unless the sky is falling. I look for technical equals or potential technical equals. I try to steer a course and hope they stay in my wake. I have found that I cannot choreograph the outcome so I try to set the scene and let it happen with a set of bounds. I have found that change is inevitable. My coach/mentor used to say the goal is in cement but the plan is in sand. I use weekly status reports as a mechanism to get the individual to know what they did and to communicate it to me in a very succinct manner. I want three things. What did you do, what will you do next week and what is in your way.
-- jdm

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenIAFFcSForbLrzjtbner@ChacMiJXQtOONsivYiefoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Workplace Politics:

Humans aren't the only species that communicates by facial expressionsDismissive Gestures: II
In the modern organization, since direct verbal insults are considered "over the line," we've developed a variety of alternatives, including a class I call "dismissive gestures." They hurt personally, and they harm the effectiveness of the organization. Here's Part II of a little catalog of dismissive gestures.
Firefighter lighting grass using a drip torchBeyond Our Control
When bad things happen, despite our plans and our best efforts, we sometimes feel responsible. We failed. We could have done more. But is that really true? Aren't some things beyond our control?
A virtual meeting of a particular fancy typeThe End-to-End Cost of Meetings: I
By now, most of us realize how expensive meetings are. Um, well, maybe not. Here's a look at some of the most-often overlooked costs of meetings.
Mohandas K. Ghandi, in the 1930sJust Make It Happen
Many idolize the no-nonsense manager who says, "I don't want to hear excuses, just make it happen." We associate that stance with strong leadership. Sometimes, though, it's little more than abuse motivated by ambition or ignorance — or both.
The city walls of Dubrovnik, CroatiaProblem Displacement by Intention
When solving problems creates new problems, or creates problems elsewhere, we say that problem displacement has occurred. Sometimes it's intentional.

See also Workplace Politics and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Raquel Welch (left) and Gilda Radner (right) from a @Cite{Saturday Night Live rehearsal, April 24, 1976Coming December 20: Conceptual Mondegreens
When we disagree about abstractions, such as a problem solution, or a competitor's strategy, the cause can often be misunderstanding the abstraction. That misunderstanding can be a conceptual mondegreen. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
An engineer attending a meeting with 14 other engineersAnd on December 27: On Assigning Responsibility for Creating Trouble
When we assign responsibility for troubles that bedevil us, we often make mistakes. We can be misled by language, stereotypes, and the assumptions we make about others. Available here and by RSS on December 27.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenwfCNYYpdFngJqaKener@ChacCNhuTwvvhfwrcgjLoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Person-to-Person Communications: Models and Applications
When Person-to-Person Communications: Models and Applicationswe talk, listen, send or read emails, read or write memos, or when we leave or listen to voice mail messages, we're communicating person-to-person. And whenever we communicate person-to-person, we risk being misunderstood, offending others, feeling hurt, and being confused. There are so many ways for things to go wrong that we could never learn how to fix all the problems. A more effective approach avoids problems altogether, or at least minimizes their occurrence. In this very interactive program we'll explain — and show you how to use — a model of inter-personal communications that can help you stay out of the ditch. We'll place particular emphasis on a very tricky situation — expressing your personal power. In those moments of intense involvement, when we're most likely to slip, you'll have a new tool to use to keep things constructive. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
Please donate!The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!

Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics!
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
My free weekly email newsletter gives concrete tips and suggestions for dealing with the challenging but everyday situations we all face.
A Tip A DayA Tip a Day arrives by email, or by RSS Feed, each business day. It's 20 to 30 words at most, and gives you a new perspective on the hassles and rewards of work life. Most tips also contain links to related articles. Free!
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.