Are You A Micromanager?

  • by kaibizzen
  • May 20, 2020
  • Blog

“I’m sick and tired of everyone leaving their dishes in the sink!  

We’ve got a roster for doing the washing up, but everyone just keeps leaving their bloody dishes for the magic dish fairy to do!   

I’m thinking about putting up a camera to find out who’s slacking on us.  

What do you think?” 

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been sharing the preparatory work our clients have been working on to get ready for the re-opening of the broader economy and be best positioned to take advantage of the upcoming opportunities. 

But today, my focus is squarely on eradicating a behaviour that most business owners exhibit, but very few admit to. 

It’s a pattern of behavior that impedes business growth, increases stress levels and practically extinguishes creativity and innovation in the workplace. 

I’m talking about… micromanaging. 

What is micromanagement? 

Micromanagement is very subjective, found somewhere in the grey area between one person’s perception of support and interaction (usually the micromanager) and the others’ perspective of meddling and manipulation (usually the micromanagee).   

The greyness has two extremes.  At one end of the spectrum, is adamant denial – “I’m not a micromanager”.  

At the other end is the micromanagee complaining because they perceive the boss simply isn’t letting them have their own way.   

In his book “My way or the highway”, Harry Chambers calls the extreme response of the micromanagee as the grown-up equivalent of “my parents don’t understand me”.  He says it comes from the ingrained habit of blame and excuses and not taking responsibility. 

“Whew”, I hear many of you say, “that means I’m not a micromanager, it’s only my team’s perspective”.  Well, maybe it is, but, then again, maybe it isn’t.   

Let’s explore some more.   

Following are a couple of examples of things that clients have said to me over the years, that has necessitated me challenging their behaviours. 

The main one is from the many clients who have the used the excuse of not getting their coaching homework finished because they’ve been busy doing certain tasks in the business.  I’ve asked them about the person they’ve got employed to do those tasks and why they haven’t allowed them to do it.  The excuses continue with responses like, 

  1. It was quicker and easier for me to do it myself.    
  2. They can’t do it properly, they’re not as good as me 
  3. They only work when I’m there.  As soon as I turn my back they slacken off 
  4. I can’t trust them to do it properly 
  5. Too much is at stake to allow this to go wrong 
  6. One client who consistently had trouble with trusting his team raised this…  

“I had a customer complain about a job we did for them.  I’d given that job to Mary to do and she made a decision that I disagree with and now she’s got it wrong.  I’m thinking about getting rid of her.  What do you think?” 

And you’ve already read the example of the business owner who wanted to install security cameras in the communal kitchen… 

Now, be honest… do any of my examples ring true for you?   

If they do you may be a micromanager. 

Symptoms of Micromanaging 

Following are some other symptoms of micromanagement that I’ve observed in clients over the years. 

  1. They’re never really satisfied with the job that others do 
  2. They feel frustrated because they would have gone about doing the job differently 
  3. Their focus is on the low-level detail 
  4. They give instructions on smaller tasks rather than the devoting their time to larger business concerns 
  5. They take great pride in pointing out others’ mistakes 
  6. They constantly want to know where their employees are at and what they’re working on 
  7. They ask to be cc’d into emails 
  8. They ask for constant updates on where things are at 
  9. They get annoyed when their employees make decisions without asking them 
  10. They delegate work to others, then interfere in what they do.  As a result they can take the credit for positive results but blame the employee for negative results. 
  11. When an employee asks them how to do it, they give them the answer, rather than asking the employee how they’ve been shown and/or how they think it could be done. 
  12. When someone asks them why, their answer is some version of “because I told you to”. 

Have you ever done any of these?   

Then maybe you are a micromanager. 

What Micromanaging Looks Like 

Following are some of the answers that, as a coach, I’ve elicited from my micromanager clients: 

  1. I get too involved 
  2. I’m the bottleneck in the business 
  3. I’m always down in the crocodile pit.  I rarely, if ever, get up into the helicopter 
  4. I can’t trust my employees to do their job 
  5. I’m going to burn myself out 
  6. I feel more comfortable doing xyz tasks rather than leading people (or other leadership requirements) 

Have you ever said any of these?   

Then maybe you are a micromanager. 

The causes of micromanagement 

So if micromanaging causes is to continually experience stress and overwhelm within our business, why do we do it?   

Here are some of the main reason why you micromanage. 

  1. The micromanage modelling you’ve had from your managers/teachers/parents.  Unfortunately, as a leader of people, the only training you’ve had in people leadership is the example that’s been set for you by others.  While you may not have like how you’ve been managed before it’s the only thing you know and it’s the behaviour you’ll revert to when you’re stressed.   
  2. You’re a perfectionist.  You like things done just right.  You don’t like mistakes. 
  3. You’re a control freak.  You believe that you will lose control if you don’t keep an eye on everyone and everything. 
  4. You’re afraid of failure if things don’t work out. 
  5. Your whole identity to this point of time has been tied up with being the technician in your business, the builder, the accountant etc.  You haven’t learned the skills you need to be the owner of the business – the owner of a building business, the owner of an accounting firm etc.  Therefore, you keep getting drawn back into the ‘doing’, because that’s your comfort zone. 
  6. You’ve never learned how to delegate.  There is a huge difference between delegation and abdication.  Abdication is telling someone to do something and then leaving them to their own devices.  You then wonder why you don’t get the results you are looking for and then take over.  True delegation requires the instruction to do something, checking to ensure they have the same picture in their head of the outcome required and making sure they have the resources to do it.  (By the way – it’s not just telling them how you’d do it. You’ve employed this person supposedly because they have the skills to produce the outcomes better than you can. Your role is to make sure they know the outcomes they need to produce and have the resources to accomplish them.) 
  7. A lack of clarity about what your role must be in the business.  Your business requires you to be focusing on the higher-level strategic issues.  This higher-level focus takes takes most of us outside our comfort zones and therefore we miss the importance of this not being done. 
  8. Lack of trust is probably the biggest reason for micromanagement.  For many it’s difficult to trust others.  Underpinning our lack of trust in others is our lack of trust of ourselves.   

The effects of micromanagement 

Irrespective of why micromanagement occurs, the potential effects are also numerous. 

  1. Resentment in relationships.  You resent your employees because you’ve employed them, you are paying them and you are still doing their work.  Your employees resent you because they feel like you are not letting them do their job 
  2. Further breaks down trust.  Your little trust in your employees and vice versa becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy 
  3. Employee learned helplessness.  Prolonged micromanagement can lead employees to believe the only way they can be successful is to keep coming to you for the answers.  “I’ve got such and such a problem, what do I do?” “I don’t know what to do.”  “You’ve never shown me how to do this.” The more this happens the deeper the helplessness gets. 
  4. Employee disengagement.  Employees who are disengaged invest their time but not their effort or creativity.  This flows over to everyone around them and so the output and productivity of the whole team is impacted.  Ultimately, disengaged employees will leave you for your competitors. 
  5. Damage to the business’ reputation.  Non achievement of results for clients, bad mouthing by employees and suppliers can cause irrevocable damage. 
  6. Your business will always be reliant upon you.  You will continue to work for it, not the other way around 

What to do instead of micromanage 

  1. Admit you are a micromanager.  Exactly and clearly define which behaviours you are exhibiting that tell you that you are one.  That is 80% of the correction. 
  2. Get over yourself.  Every one can make excuses for why we micromanage.  However, you need to focus on what it is doing to yourself and those around you.  Write a list of what your business could look like if you had a team of empowered, enthusiastic, performing and productive employees.  What difference would it make to you?  What difference would it make to your business? 
  3. Let it go.  Do a time and motion study for a week or so to point out to yourself what you are spending your time on.  Be honest, write everything down.  Then go back and ask yourself these questions: 
    • What am I doing that I’ve employed others to do?  
    • Why don’t I let them do it? 
    • What do I have to do to let them do it? 
    • What results am I looking for them to give me? 
  4. Where will they need my input? 
  5. Ensure your team member/s know what is expected of them. Sit down with them, explain clearly to them what results you are expecting of them and let them do it.  That means not telling them how to do it.  Remember they may not do it the same way as you.  You’re looking for the outcome NOT the how.  It just might surprise you how excellent they really are. 
  6. Set your employees up for success.   Employees are dependent upon you because you’ve allowed them to be.  Dependency or learned helplessness becomes a vicious circle.  Stop giving them the answers.  Ask them how they’ve been taught to do it or what they think needs to be done.  Ensure you and they know exactly what success looks like – the result you are looking for.  Make sure they have the resources, information and support they need to give you that result.  Then let them do it! 

No-one wants to be micromanaged and you really don’t enjoy micromanaging either.   

You know, deep down, that your…  

… overwork  

… less time with your family,  

… and not getting to what you really want to be doing…  

is of your own making.  

Break the habit today. 

If you are looking for support to keep you committed to focusing on the big picture, to be an inspiration to your employees, lead your team AND get the results you are deeply longing for from your business give us a call. We’d love to help you achieve the business and life you and your family deserve. 

02 Oct

Panel Discussion

Tuesday, 6:30pm Quest Cannon Hill

What does it take to actually remove yourself from the day-to-day grind of business? Learn from our panel of Business Owners who've Been There, Done That.



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