To micromanage or not to micromanage?

August 3, 2023

Why is it that there are still many leaders today who micromanage? You'd think we'd know better by now, wouldn't you?

Micromanagement is known as an undesirable and frustrating characteristic of executives. It hinders employee autonomy, confidence and growth opportunities and often has a negative impact on the working atmosphere, which can ultimately lead to high staff turnover.

But why do we still encounter so many micromanagers? And why is this behaviour still tolerated within organisations? I was recently asked these questions:

“Anne, how do you view this, and do you have any tips for if you are a micromanager yourself and want to improve your leadership?”

I believe that there are two important factors that play a role: the leader himself and the organisational culture in which he or she operates.

As for the leader himself, a limiting belief can play a major role, for example: "Everything has to be perfect and that can only be done if I am personally in control." This belief can be deeply rooted and requires self-awareness and intrinsic motivation to change.

From a systemic perspective, micromanagement in organisational culture can arise from different sources and dynamics. Here are some possible causes:

1. Control Drive

Micromanagement can derive from a deep-rooted need for control. This can derive from insecurity, fear of mistakes or the feeling that everything has to be strictly controlled. It can also stem from a lack of confidence in the ability of others to successfully complete tasks.

2. Hierarchical Structures

In some organisations, hierarchical structures and authoritarian management styles contribute to micromanagement. Leaders feel compelled to scrutinise in detail to maintain their position and authority.

3. Culture of distrust

If an organisation has a culture of distrust, micromanagement can become more prevalent. Distrust can arise from previous negative experiences, lack of transparency or communication problems.

4. Insufficient Delegation

Sometimes micromanagement arises because leaders have difficulty delegating. They feel responsible for everything and have difficulty delegating tasks and responsibilities to others. This can lead to excessive involvement in the most minor details.

5. Pressure to perform

In an environment where the emphasis is on performance and results, micromanagement can arise. Leaders feel compelled to monitor closely to ensure goals and targets are met. This can lead to excessive scrutiny and patronising.

An interesting fact is that we apparently choose those organisations where we can fully develop our own theme. If you are a micromanager, chances are that you have chosen an organisation where this theme plays a systemic role.

Here are 10 practical tips to get rid of your micromanagement and move towards a leadership style based on empowerment, confidence and growth:

  • Be self-aware: Watch for signs of excessive control and ask yourself if you are really needed in every decision and detail.
  • Trust your team: Believe in their capabilities and give responsibility.
  • Delegate tasks and responsibilities.
  • Set clear expectations: Clear goals, deadlines and guidelines.
  • Encourage own initiative: Encourage independent action and ideas, as long as the result is in line with the goals.
  • Promote open communication: Encourage questions, feedback, and suggestions.
  • Develop coaching skills: Guide and support instead of controlling and dictating.
  • Learn from mistakes: Allow mistakes, help team members learn from them and create a safe environment.
  • Provide clear lines of communication: Make responsibilities and accountability clear.
  • Be patient and consistent in your new leadership approach.

The transformation of your leadership style starts with awareness and self-reflection. I invite you to actively continue to work on your self-awareness and to be curious about your current and desired leadership behaviour. By taking this step and communicating openly and honestly about this, we contribute to a world in which the number of micro-managers can soon be counted on one hand…

Anne Jaakke
HR ChangeMaker
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