Leadership in Action – Avoid 3 Common Ways We ALL Micro-Manage

Leadership in Action – Avoid 3 Common Ways We ALL Micro-Manage


None of us likes to be micro-managed by others, but most of us will micro-manage at times.  More often than not, when we micro-manage, we believe that we are coaching. To Energize Action, we need to understand how to avoid the three common ways that we micro-manage.


The first thing to realize is why we do not like to be micro-managed. When we feel that we are being micro-managed, we already feel that we have a handle on the job at hand. We are proceeding just fine, and then someone comes and tells us HOW to do the job. We do not see it as a coaching opportunity. We see it as someone interfering with our productivity. We have been operating from a “want-to” perspective and this other person is trying to put us on a “have-to.” As humans, we do not do well when faced with a have-to, so we react with either active or passive resistance.


Classic Micro-Managing

This is where we get into every detail, focused on the how, every step, every moment. Our staff feel that we are watching over them and they become afraid of making a mistake. They do not put any of their own energy into the project. They simply want to avoid the punishment of being told that they are doing it wrong.


Passive Micro-Managing

Many of us are so concerned about micro-managing our direct reports, that we avoid giving too many specifics about the project and objectives. We think we are “empowering” our reports to figure it out. Two weeks into the project, you realize they are going in the completely wrong direction. They are excited because they believe they are adding value, but they are not solving the problem that needs to be solved. We then need to stop the team and redirect them into the proper direction. They get frustrated because the direction was never mentioned beforehand. The details of the project needed to be clear upfront and now they feel they have wasted two weeks of their time and effort. Being clear on the outcome of a project, from the outset, is imperative to avoid costly course corrections later.


Micro-Managing When We Think We are Coaching

When we observe an opportunity for one of our staff to improve their current performance, by making an adjustment to what they are doing, we believe we are coaching when we are actually micro-managing. While our intention is noble, and we are very careful in our approach, the fact is, if the focal individual does not believe there is a performance issue, all coaching will be seen as micromanaging. For coaching to actually be in place, there needs to be implicit permission from your direct report that they can benefit from your ideas to help them improve.  The solution is simple: Ask them if they want a suggestion. The tough part is if they say, “No, I’m fine.” Then we need to be prepared to let it go. This does not mean you don’t hold them accountable for their performance. When they choose the way to accomplish the goal, they are accountable. The clearer you are on the expectations, timeline and performance levels, then you create opportunities where they will seek coaching to help achieve the performance expectation.


So, hold your staff accountable by setting clear expectations up front and give them the space to accomplish the work. As you are there to help them be successful, you will Energize Action.