When you're leading a team, it can be tempting to try to get everything done just your way. But when leadership turns into micromanagement, employees can find it hard to carve their own path and develop independent ideas and solutions. At the end of the day, while micromanagers may get results, the costs to professional relationships can be significant. Here are five ways to tell you may be keeping too firm of a grip on your team.
1. You have a plan but don't explain it fully
One sign that you may be micromanaging your team can be discovered by assessing your expectations. Have you charted a course for your project? A specific way you want things done? Micromanagers are often perfectionists with poor communication skills.
If you constantly find yourself frustrated by how things are being done, consider what you've told your team. Did you tell them what you wanted? Talented as they may be, your employees aren't mind readers. If they've failed to do something you never told them to do, then you need to take responsibility for that lapse.
You might think that saying less is a way to avoid micromanagement, but in fact, stating what you want and expect at the outset will seem less controlling than constant criticism after a task is completed. To avoid micromanaging, try saying more. You'll be surprised how your team steps up to the plate when there are clear expectations.
2. You want constant assurances of team accountability
When your team sends an email about a project, do you insist on being cc'd? Are you constantly wondering--and asking--where your team members are, what they're doing, and what the status of the project is? According to the Harvard Business Review, these are sure signs of a micromanager. A micromanager just can't seem to trust their team and makes up for this by being over-demanding when it comes to questions of accountability.
Instead of constantly demanding answers from your team--this cuts into their productivity anyway--try holding them accountable to each other. This can take a big step of trust if you're used to keeping a close hold on your employees, but if you've hired the right people then they can handle this level of responsibility.
Good employees (and cooperative team members) will email each other, talk about the project, and keep each other on track. After all, your employees don't want a work imbalance and they expect their colleagues to do their jobs. Loosen your grip and let them cooperatively manage each other. You'll be surprised with the results.
3. You frequently find that high level tasks are neglected
How does micromanaging prevent things from getting done when its entire purpose is to keep such a close hold on the details that nothing is forgotten? The answer: all of your employees' work gets completed, but you end up so busy monitoring them that your work doesn't. This is the irony of micromanagement. When you micromanage others, the work that suffers most of all is your own.
If this is a problem you seem to suffer from, then your micromanaging may be out of control. Now is the time to examine what tasks need to be reprioritized and whose job they are. Is much of your time occupied doing work that doesn't belong to you? Get yourself back on task and get your own work done instead of focusing on what others are doing.
4. Deliverables Are Constantly Late
When you think about your management style, you probably understand your role as facilitating efficiency, timeliness, and precision. So when did all of this work start to get delivered late?
As it turns out, these late assignments are likely more your fault than your employees. When you spend the end stages of a project nitpicking details that ultimately don't matter, you hold up the finalization of work that could be passed along to your clients.
One way to break your micromanaging habits is to recommit yourself to timeliness in your work. Resolve that work is to be delivered on time from this point forward. This will force your hand when it comes to those final details. It may make you anxious at first, but know that this is for the good of your business, your team, and your clients. Send it along and keep everyone moving.
5. You Have Systems--Lots Of Systems
In most cases, micromanaging demands a looser grip, but as David and Lorrie Goldsmith point out, there are times and ways in which micromanaging is reasonable. The two offer the metaphor of driving as an example. Driving is highly systematized in that there is a lot of oversight and little significant choice in the whole process. You can't just go driving through someone's backyard because it will get you to your destination faster – the systems exist for a reason.
If you have good systems, you don't have to automatically do away with them because they are associated with micromanaging. Instead, assess your systems and see if they're helpful. A beneficial system need not be replaced. Micromanaging may be a dirty word, but tempered with trust and good communication, you'll find you can loosen your grip without letting go entirely.