By Kevin Eikenberry
Nearly everyone has been micromanaged at some point in their careers—and no one ever loves it. No one ever lists micromanagement as one of the top skills of great leaders. More than a bad habit for individual leaders, micromanagement can create several big problems within an organization, including some that might not readily be associated with it. To determine whether they’re doing too much micromanaging, leaders should ask themselves the following questions:
“What is the trust level between my team members and me?” Although leaders micromanage for plenty of reasons, their lack of trust in the ability of team members to do a task (or to do higher value or higher consequence tasks) is a common one. Even if a lack of trust isn’t the major reason for micromanagement, it is often seen by team members as the reason. When employees ask, “Why won’t they let me do my job?” they often answer that question themselves with “They don’t trust me.”
“How would I rate the confidence level of I team members?” People who are regularly questioned about their work, told exactly what to do, or feel like they are being watched regularly will likely be less confident. When people don’t have a chance to do anything new or of higher value, how can their confidence grow?
“Are my team members developing and growing as fast as I would like?” People grow by having new experiences and having opportunities to succeed (and fail, too). When people are being micromanaged, these things aren’t happening.
“How engaged are my people?” Many factors contribute to employee engagement, but managers who reflect on their own careers will usually remember that whenever they felt micromanaged, their personal engagement levels fell.
“How do I feel about the level of accountability I see?” People feel accountable for things they have a sense of ownership over. But when every task is examined and every move is questioned, how much ownership can they feel?
“Am I happy with the level of initiative my team members show?” Most leaders and organizations want team members who are proactively solving problems, looking at opportunities, and generally taking initiative. How likely is someone to do any of those when they feel micromanaged?
“How much turnover do I have?” As the old adage goes, “People don’t quit jobs—they quit bosses.” When someone feels that their boss doesn’t let them grow and develop or that they can’t trust their boss, they are far more likely to leave. More often than many managers realize, feeling micromanaged is a root cause of many employee departures.
As managers consider which of these problems they are facing, they should ask themselves where micromanagement might be a factor. Once they isolate the situations in which micromanagement is hurting the organization and treat it as a systemic problem that needs to be addressed (rather than as an isolated incident), their teams will be more engaged, happier, and more successful.
Kevin Eikenberry is the chief potential officer of the Kevin Eikenberry Group, a leadership and learning consulting company that has been helping organizations, teams, and individuals reach their potential since 1993. His specialties include leadership, teams and teamwork, organizational culture, facilitating change, and organizational learning. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.