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Are You a Micro-Manager?

May 5, 2008
If there's a dark side to delegation, it's micromanagement.

Micromanagement is defined as managing with great or excessive control or attention to details. When is micromanagement okay? There are actually some key points when it is. Most managers are going to recognize these, and this will be a review.

If deadlines are missed, the manager must step in and get everyone back on track, find out what happened and, if necessary, create a plan of action for the individual or group to make sure it doesn't happen again.

If a project is not going as expected, or employees are hitting benchmarks but the results are still not what were hoped for, you'll need to step in and help manage the situation until the results are acceptable.

If a team member is not able to perform because they don't have the skills, the time, or maybe the interest, then as the manager you need to step in to make sure that that task gets completed. This is important for the overall health of the team, but also for the individual. If the delegated role is beyond their skills, you might cause more damage by letting them completely fail than stepping in. You can turn the experience into a training experience and get the work done either by doing it yourself or preferably delegating to someone else, but have them stay involved so they can continue to learn from the process.

However, if a team member is simply not willing to perform, despite the fact that they have all the skills necessary, then you need to look at the situation from a personnel point of view. What's going on with this individual? Keep in mind that individual issues can cause problems with a team very quickly.

And, of course, if a team member is responsible for a sensitive file or job, you may want to stay hands-on simply because if that information got out or if there was a problem with it, the risk would be higher than ensuring that that person had complete autonomy.

But when is it not okay to micro-manage? This is actually a gray area that managers have trouble managing. When employees are feeling micromanaged, they tend to manifest this by feeling frustrated or even fearful.

What this means is that the individual ends up not trusting his own judgment when you're second-guessing or asking a lot of questions on how he is getting to that end result. The less he trusts himself, the harder it is for him to take on the next delegated task.

The number one reason most employees leave a workplace is because of bad management. They feel that they don't have the control, the autonomy, or the ability to grow. The good news is that these are all things you can control, as a manager.

Micromanaging is not okay if it affects the mental health of the staff or the efficiency of the organization. If you're constantly unintentionally undermining an employee's decisions and performance, that's going to affect their ability to continue to perform overall, and it's also going to impact the whole team dynamic. You can determine if you're a micromanager. Answer these seven questions so you can determine where you fit in the spectrum.

1. Is it hard for you to delegate tasks?

2. Do you believe you can perform most of the tasks of your team and probably better?

3. Do you feel it is more efficient to do the job yourself, rather than give the job to a team member?

4. Do you help your staff learn from their mistakes?

5. Do you spend a large amount of time overseeing single projects?

6. Are you and your team overworked?

7. Does your team always check with you before doing anything?

Did you answer honestly? Remember, it's not all black and white.
About the Author
While managers delegate tasks 90% of the time, only 5% of those tasks are completed without hands-on support from management. Take this effective delegation quiz at www.delegatesuccess.com to determine what type of delegation style you have. Get your projects done without working long hours! Lisa Symons has more than 12 years experience with global IT management.
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