Micromanagers usually have the best intentions in mind. They think giving more advice and direction helps others succeed and learn the best ways to accomplish a given task. Many micromanagers have no idea that they are micromanagers. They just view themselves as incredibly helpful, informative, wise individuals.
There isn’t a black-and-white distinction for this social label. At times a person might temporarily wear this title, only to take it off again once the project is done. For instance, some brides turn into detail-driven monsters before their wedding day. This isn’t grounds to say those women are always micromanagers. Stressful and important situations can bring out the worst (and most demanding) nature in all of us.
I’ll admit that I am a recovering micromanager. That used to be my leadership style. Every detail mattered and needed to be done the way I wanted to do it. Thankfully, I noticed this harmful tendency in myself and have since made significant headway in the area.
I was anxious about being in complete control of my responsibilities. I wanted everything I did to turn out flawlessly. While projects might have been executed very well, relationships suffer under my heavy-handed guidance. My leadership didn’t communicate trust or respect to the people I delegated work to. Those two values being cornerstones of healthy relationships, I drove people away.
One time, I had to cook dinner with another woman I lived with. We had different cooking styles and tastes and she had a track record of burning or overcooking food. I didn’t trust her to do a good job, so I gave her simple tasks like chopping vegetables and putting them in a pot of water. When she asked for other ways to help, I quickly and bluntly told her there was nothing else she could do as I busily multitasked to finish all the other preparations. The dinner turned out well and nothing was burnt, but this only led to distance in the friendship. I had communicated that I didn’t trust her to do anything besides chopping veggies. And even with that job, I told her how to do it. Ahh, I was a terrible person!
When I have worked under micromanagers, the quality of my work suffered. I would eventually give up on going above and beyond expectations because it was never enough. Eventually, I didn’t care about the details because I knew that person would pick up my slack and do it the way they wanted it done. Micromanagement inspires team members to be less productive and passionate about the project. Why bother taking initiative and being creative only to be scolded for deviating from “the perfect plan”?
To all of you recovering micromanagers out there, don’t give up hope on changing your ways. Here are some questions to ask yourself before giving direction to other people.
1. Why do I need to manage the details of this project after delegating them to other people?
2. Is my way actually the only way to accomplish the task and do it well?
3. Do I trust the people I’m working with? If not, why? Are my reasons justified?
4. Is it my job to manage the details other people are in charge of? Do I even have the authority to tell them to make adjustments?
5. How would I respond if my boss/supervisor/parent treated me the way I treat these people?
6. What are the overarching goals or objectives? Does my team understand them? If they do, is it really necessary to give them further instructions?
7. If I died today, would my team be capable of success without me?
8. Am I helping my team develop skills in leadership, initiative-taking, and strategic thinking?
9. What’s going on inside of me? Why do I need to be in control of every detail? What are some steps I can take in my personal life to feel less of a need for control/power/perfection?
10. What are better ways to direct my team without giving step-by-step instructions? How can I keep them on track while empowering them to make their own decisions?
11. If this project doesn’t turn out perfectly, what are the real consequences? Can I take that risk?
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