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Coach's Corner--March 24, 2008

The Client
Name: Barb
Age: 50
Title: IT Manager
Years at company: 10 (five in current role)
Industry: Health care
Issue: Breaking the micromanagement habit
Q. I’m a micromanager and am having trouble letting go. What should I do?

A.  If you know (or suspect) that you’re a micromanager and want to change, you need to understand why you’re micromanaging and develop skills to allow your team to produce while you focus on leading.

The inner game
Whether you’re a star performer who was promoted to management or you’re managing in a new area where you haven’t done the work yourself, micromanagement can creep in. There are many drivers, such as loss of control or sense of inadequacy. These all arise from the same inner issue: fear.

Why fear? Ask yourself: If I don’t micromanage, what could happen? Team members could make mistakes. They might not do the work as well as you would. They may do it in a different way than you did; their way might be even better, which could make you feel less valuable. Or maybe micromanaging is the only way you know how to manage. If you stop doing it, then you won’t know what you should do. What’s worse, your boss and peers may see that you don’t know what you’re doing. When you think about these possibilities, how are you reacting inside? Does your “fight or flight” response kick in?

The problem with fears is that they lurk just below the surface and remain unexamined. When you become conscious of them, they lose their power. Have a look at what worries you and assess how realistic it is. For fears that have a lot of power over you, create alternate responses. For example, instead of “their way is different, so they must be wrong,” try: “Their way brings new possibilities, which reflects well on me as their leader.” Once you have addressed any limiting fears, it’s time to change your behavior.

The outer game
Your goal is to have a successful team. To do that, you need employees who perform well and a manager who leads them to success.

Part 1: Focus on communication and trust to help your employees excel. Try these:• Assign tasks that include clear, specific, and time-bound expectations.• Allow employees to develop the specifics of how they’ll accomplish the task.• Set up status reporting that fits the scope of the assignment (beware of burdensome reporting, a classic sign of micromanagement).• Let employees know you’re trying to change and give them a safe way to point it out if you slip.

Part 2: Be a leader. Try the term “micro-leader.” You never hear it, because it makes no sense! The language of management lends itself to command-and-control approaches that no longer work in many environments. Instead, leadership skills bring more value and will increase satisfaction for everyone, including you. Options include:• Investing in each employee through coaching, challenging work, and development.• Removing barriers to success your team members face.• Expressing a meaningful vision that helps team members see the value of their contributions.

The last word
Most employees don’t want or need to be hovered over. As you let go of fears about creating a different type of relationship with your team, you’ll break your micromanagement habit.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted March 24, 2008
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