Are you thrilled with your team’s performance? Do they knock it out of the park everyday without any help from you? If that’s the case–congratulations! You have created a finely tuned machine all the other departments envy. However, if your team isn’t firing on all cylinders, you might be wondering how you could improve performance outcomes. For some managers, that means changing the behaviors of their team members. But for others–and I would say this is the majority–it really comes down to changing your own behavior if you want your team to excel.
Now, if you are a perfectionist and a detail-freak, micromanaging might seem like a good thing to you. After all, you’re the one who knows what needs to be done, and you know how to do it best. Plus, it’s your reputation on the line, right? While that may be true (even though it usually isn’t), when you micromanage your team, you send a subtle message that you don’t trust them. Their work is not valuable enough to stand on it’s own. You do not feel they are important enough to grow and learn by making mistakes. And when everything runs through you, you silently tell your staff you do not value their ideas or opinions. You create an atmosphere of mistrust, and nothing exceptional can grow under such conditions.
If you want to build an exceptional team, then it is time to stop micromanaging. However, as with any behavioral change, stopping cold-turkey can be difficult. Here are some guidelines to help you stop obsessing on everything your team could be doing wrong and help them do things right on their own.
Look in a Mirror–The first step in changing any behavior lies in recognition. Why do you feel the need to micro-manage. For the vast majority–myself included–this need usually stems from insecurity. Any error will reflect badly on you and might harm your reputation. Or you might be afraid others will realize you don’t have all the answers. The truth is you can’t have all the answers, nor does anyone expect you to. But when you spend your time managing everyone else’s work, you are not contributing at your highest level. Your skill-sets are needed to drive to the organization forward and you can’t do that while managing below you.
Prioritize–Once you decide to change, it’s best to take the easiest road at the start. Look at what really doesn’t need your attention, and delegate those tasks to someone else. You don’t need to be involved in everything–nor should you be. After removing the easier tasks from your list, turn your attention to your own priorities. What do you do that adds the most value to the organization? That is where you want to focus your time and energy. Not only will this benefit the company, it could also very well fire up your own motivation and job satisfaction.
Communicate–Chances are your staff will be surprised by this change in your perspective. It is crucial you explain what is happening. Here is where it gets tricky for many managers. They don’t want to say they have a problem with control–or any problem–so they make changes without any explanation. And those changes seldom last. Without explaining what you want to accomplish, your staff will be confused and nervous. They won’t know how to react because it is not what you have required of them before.
Clarity is also key. When starting a new project, or even continuing with an existing one, tell your staff what you need from them and when. Don’t set up a burdensome check-in schedule–ask them what they will need from you to complete the project, then make sure they get it. Good communication is two-way, and chances are your staff may not feel comfortable expressing themselves if you have been micro-managing.
Start Slow–Don’t start a new management style with complicated projects. Start with smaller projects so team members can become comfortable with a new sense of empowerment. At this point, the most important thing to remember is that things will go wrong. Some people may need more direction than you anticipate, or they may not be as proactive as you expect. The goal is to create a strong, independent team but that won’t happen if there are no mistakes. This can be difficult for the perfectionist but those mistakes help your team grow. That growth will result in a team that consistently delivers strong, creative, and original solutions to those ever evolving challenges.
As you become more comfortable letting go, your team will become more confident working independently. You won’t be mired down in cc’d emails or daily check-ins. There will be more opportunity to focus on your work and improve your own skills. You will be creating an environment of trust and collaboration, and that is the type of place where anyone would be happy to work.