Hands up anyone who enjoys being micro-managed…


Hands up anyone who recognises that they micro-manage others and wants to stop…

Er. I can see a few hands but not that many…

It’s an interesting conundrum: clients tell me frequently how they loathe being micro-managed and how:

• their line manager is seeking to control their every move, conversation and activity

• they’re losing every ounce of their creativity, passion and commitment to the role they used to love

• they’re looking to leave their job (‘people join organisations and leave managers’)

At the same time, clients who are micro-managing (consciously or unconsciously) tell me how:

• incredibly busy they are

• their team isn’t ‘stepping up’

• they’re losing those excellent people they recruited not very long ago

• they think they might want to change but, but, but….

It’s such a waste of everyone’s time, energy and potential. And soul.

Man with hand on head

Meet Riley…

Riley was a good team leader, praised for the help and support he gave his team members through offering advice, putting in long hours, giving advice and sharing experience. However, when promoted into a senior management role Riley didn’t reflect on what styles worked where and when and with whom. ‘After all, what got me here would surely get me there?’ No. The stress and hours were taking their toll and Riley was wondering, ‘why is my team not as good now as they were before?’ What was going on?

Riley was micro-managing, not leading.

It’s adopting a mind-set that says ‘I need to control everything.’ Micro-managers:

  • Resist delegating work (‘it’s quicker to do it myself’)
  • Are internally focussed (‘I’d love to be out collaborating, marketing etc but I can’t leave here at the moment’)
  • Immerse themselves in the work assigned to others (‘I want it done correctly’)
  • Look at the detail instead of the big picture (‘I have an eye for detail that others miss’)
  • Discourage others from making decisions (‘I want them to bring their decisions to me for approval’)
  • Get involved in the work of others without consulting them (‘I’m just showing them how to do it for next time’)
  • Monitor what’s least important and expect regular reports on miscellany (‘I never have time to get to the strategic elements’)
  • Push aside the experience and knowledge of colleagues (‘They don’t have the breadth of picture that I have’)
  • Have a de-motivated team (‘They’re just not stepping up’)

Why do micro-managers micro-manage?

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Imposter-syndrome (‘I’m not good enough’)
  • Perfectionism
  • Want / need to be seen as ‘in control’

If you recognise the symptoms and want to stop, think about these steps.

  • Admit it to yourself. ‘I micro-manage others and I can see the negative impact it’s having so I’m going to learn to lead instead’
  • Ask for help. ‘I need to understand when I’m doing it. And what to do instead. Please will you support me?’
  • Learn to lead yourself effectively and then lead others effectively. This isn’t a small task and it will take some time but admitting it to yourself is the first task.

Letting go of micro-managing isn’t the easiest thing to do because of where it comes from (anxiety etc.) but it is possible. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that you’re most likely to need a coach to achieve this change because mostly people do.

And it’ll be worth it.

  • You’ll do the job you’re paid to do (instead of everyone else’s) and
  • Your team members will – miraculously – reinvent themselves into the capable, creative, collaborative professionals you thought you’d recruited in the first place!
  • And you’ll be leading, not micro-managing, so you’ll have more time to focus on strategy, stakeholder relationships and you might even get to go home on time.

Oh and if you’re at all tempted to share this blog with a micro-manager, don’t bother. They won’t read it. They’re too busy doing everyone else’s jobs.