“If you’re like most micromanagers, you probably don’t even know that you’re doing it,” the Harvard Business Review reports.
Most micromanagers think that they are legitimately helping or saving time. But the truth is, micromanagers only add to the dysfunction of their company and ramp up tensions.
It’s incredibly easy to overstep bounds and become overbearing, especially among financial professionals and other solo entrepreneurs who may have built their business from the ground up.
But how can you tell if you’ve crossed the line from being a leader to being a micromanager? Most employees (that value their jobs) aren’t going to come out and tell you.
If you find yourself saying some variation of these five things, it may be a sign that you’ve slipped into micromanagement.
1. “It’s not how I would have done it.”
Micromanagement habits are born out of fear. Managers fear that their employees will make them look foolish in front of their clients or other stakeholders. They’re afraid to let employees find their own way to accomplish a goal. Failure is not an option for them.
In fairness, sometimes there is a black-and-white way to accomplish something, such as for compliance. But with most business tasks, there’s a lot more nuance. As a manager or business owner, you have to accept that not every employee will function the same way as you.
If you can open up and focus on the results instead of the process, then it’s possible that your employees will find a more efficient way of doing things. That way you can work together on improving the system, instead of their individual processes.
2. “It’s good, but not great.”
Winston Churchill once said, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.”
There’s a difference between setting the bar high and setting it impossibly high. This is where good communication comes in. Try to be as specific as possible with your employees about what you are looking for in each task. Share examples of what others are doing, but give them the freedom to find what works best for them.
3. “Pay attention to the details.”
If you find yourself hyper-focused on the nitty-gritty details of each project, you’re almost certainly micromanaging. You aren’t a teacher grading a paper red pen in hand, ready to ding a student for any mistake. You’re a leader. It’s your job to guide, not to scold.
4. “What’s your status?”
If you demand frequent check-ins, it communicates a lack of trust. It’s best practice to schedule a meeting once or twice a week to check-in and leave your employee be in between.
A high-priority project may need daily updates. If that’s the case, ask your employees to update you with beginning-of-day or end-of-day emails. And don’t start endless email chains back and forth. Be concise and let your employee get on with it.
5. “Make sure you CC me on emails.”
Nothing destroys morale like insisting on being included on every single email thread. It’s even worse if you override your employee by replying to a thread when you haven’t been asked to.
Let your employees know to CC you if an issue or pressing matter comes up. Otherwise, let them do the talking.
What to do instead
What should you do instead of micromanaging? Build an environment of trust and be willing to let your employees fail, at least at first. There may be some growing pains, but if you are willing to endure, you’ll end up with a team you can depend on who respects you as a leader.
For more about leadership
- Stop being a micromanager — Learn how to end “helicopter management.”
- Read “Build an environment of trust by following three steps” — This article is from the MDRT Hiring Guide, where you’ll find a wealth of information about hiring, compensating and managing employees and teams.
- Watch “Let go and lead” — Find out how to empower and motivate employees by becoming a leader, not a micromanager.
- Read “Build an engaged firm” — Two Top of the Table qualifiers share the effective engagement tools that helped their agency gain recognition as one of the best places to work. Audio is also available for this Annual Meeting session.