Micro-managing

Why do some managers feel a need to involve themselves in every little detail that goes on in their department or business? The following answers to that question are from three consulting clients I have worked with over the years.

Bob, a highly skilled engineer who supervises a team of four, explained his behavior this way. “I get anxious whenever I delegate something. The thought that goes through my head is that no one knows this stuff better than I do and if they screw it up I will look like a fool.”

Jane, a CPA and supervisor, said, “The team I work with has okay skills, but I feel a strong need to help. I often get over-involved and sometimes take over tasks that I had delegated. My intentions are good, but I know I sometimes tick people off and send them the message that I do not trust them.”

Nick, an executive level administrator, said, “It is my job to push people and they need to know I will be looking over their shoulders. If they can’t take it maybe they are in the wrong line of work. We all get paid well and need to produce at the highest level.”

Bob, Jane and Nick each have different belief systems that affect their work. Bob is afraid he will be judged a failure if his team does not succeed. His over-involvement was a self-fulfilling prophecy—the more he interjected himself into his team member’s responsibilities, the more anxious they got, the more second guessing they did, and the more likely they were to make mistakes.

Jane believed she was not useful unless she was needed and when team members demonstrated competency, she felt threatened. Her reaction was to act in the way she was most comfortable—to take over with the rationalization that she was just being helpful. Jane’s didn’t feel trusted and, in turn, her employees did not trust her.

Nick was very insecure and had serious doubts about his own worth—which he acted out in bullying behaviors. He excused the high turnover on his team by saying people couldn’t perform at the expected standards, and had little insight into how his own behaviors negatively affected productivity.

A missing management perspective for all three was the belief that the well-being of their supervisee’s was one of their primary job responsibilities. Their own attitudes and issues were getting in the way of effective leadership. Bob, Jane and Nick were not incompetent or totally ineffective managers. But they had not made the transition from being the doers of tasks to the developers of human capital.

Highly effective leaders of self managing, self determining teams that produce at a high level typically do not micromanage. Such leaders possess excellent supervisor skills, are insightful into their own strengths and weaknesses, are mission-driven, goal-oriented and operate from a defined leadership philosophy.

In future posts we will talk more about how to grow as managers and leaders. If you feel you need additional leadership development, you may want to consider management and executive coaching. Bob, Jane and Nick all benefited from the experience and were able to make changes to their leadership style.