Learn When to Delegate and When to Micromanage
When you hear the words “delegate” and “micromanage”, what comes to your mind? Do you feel relaxed or do you cringe? Are you under pressure?
Usually, we relate those terms to a certain authority figure in our lives.
The emotion those words draw out can show how you feel in contact with this person and, in turn, how this person makes you feel.
This can be any person you see as an authority, for example, your parents, but most commonly, we relate these terms to our employer, our boss, or any other who are above us in the workplace hierarchy.
They can be qualified as “delegators” or “micromanagers” in regard to how they choose to approach their subordinates.
Usually, delegating is regarded as a good way and micromanaging as a bad way of managing a business, but in this text, we will try to point out the good and bad sides of both approaches to management, and examine if there is, in fact, a time and a place for the infamous micromanaging as well.
WHAT IS MICROMANAGING?
Micromanaging is an approach to management that is characterized by the managers’ close observation and control of the subordinates’ performance and work. As already mentioned, it is considered as a not so favorable style as it limits the creativity and freedom of your employees.
The micromanaging boss is frequently perceived as dictatorial behavior and a pressure factor by the employees, as they feel that he or she is hovering over them constantly.
Micromanagers require from their subordinates to submit detailed reports on how the work is going, it takes both the manager and the employers a lot of time to go through, it takes up a lot of energy and creates a tense work environment, as the employee’s feel like the manager is breathing down their necks.
CAUSES OF MICROMANAGING
There is a micromanager in all of us, the only thing that is different is if we choose to control that trait and that kind of workplace behavior or not, and in what degree.
There are various underlying causes for micromanaging behavior and they can be of different nature.
Personal insecurity is one of them. Imagine that you are a first time manager in a company. Up until yesterday, you have been a simple worker relying on others to guide you, and relying on your own skills and talents to fulfill the needs of your company.
You were responsible for your work and your work only.
Now, the tides have changed and you are the one who needs to lead others in the direction that is desirable for the company.
Your responsibilities have grown immensely overnight, and even if you have been preparing yourself for such a job, you can have doubts about your skills as a manager.
So, what happens? You tend to slide back to doing what you are good at, and what you are familiar with.
So instead of leading your subordinates, you hover over them, telling them what and how to do, and essentially, you go back to doing your old job just in a larger amount, as you usually have more than one subordinate.
This issue should be fairly easy to fix if you work on your self-esteem, and once you get more experience in the managing position. Just remember if you liked when your boss hovered over you, watching your every step and tell yourself that you can trust your employees.
Another possible cause is your ego.
Let’s face it, everyone with the ambition to be at the top of their workplace hierarchy has a bigger or smaller ego.
The problem with that is that you think that your way of doing something is the best way, and you, again don’t trust your employees.
You do not let them make their own decisions, you limit their creativity by detailed instructions, and limit their opportunity to have a learning curve and learn from their mistakes.
Admittedly, it is not easy to relinquish control over something, and it is compelling to do the work all by yourself, which is what you will essentially be doing.
You can avoid this by censuring your ego and practicing humility.
You should lead your subordinates, help them grow, teach them, not make them do things your way at any price.
If you are doubting your employees’ abilities can also be the cause for micromanaging. In this situation, the cure is to teach and let the individuals learn for themselves and from their mistakes. But take care that you are not overly critical as it can lower the self-esteem of your employees.
Whatever the cause, be it covering up your own insecurities or putting forward your ego, micromanagers are often not aware of the fact, and they do not see their behavior as bad or symptomatic.
What the employees can see as micromanaging, narcissistic and controlling, those micromanagers see as organized, prepared and perfectionistic.
EFFECTS OF MICROMANAGING
Again, there is a variety of possible outcomes of micromanaging, and they are prevalently considered unfavorable.
Since following detailed instructions limit the creativity and independence, your employees might find themselves suffocated and constrained.
They might even be afraid to make a mistake especially if your ‘go to’ move after a mistake is blaming or even taking away the assignment. This entails that they are learning little or not at all and their personal development comes to a halt.
There are two major outcomes of this kind of managing your business, and both of them are bad for you as a manager and your company. Firstly, the morale in your company will be low.
People tend to lose the feeling of loyalty when they seem to not contribute to the company’s success which leads to demotivation.
This demotivation further leads to the low quality of the product or service you are offering which is fundamentally bad for your business.
On the other hand, when they are not respected and when they are not able to make progress, people leave, and they will eventually leave your company to look for better self-development opportunities.
Another very important thing with micromanaging is that you as the manager will burn out. It is impossible to have everything in your head, otherwise, you would not need other employees to start with.
And instead of getting stuck in the rut, you should learn how to enable your subordinates to step up, and you do this by delegating effectively.
If you recognized some of your own traits up until now, check out this link, and get your micromanaging in control.
IS MICROMANAGING EVER A SMART MOVE TO MAKE?
Although we have mentioned a number of facts that state otherwise, it actually is beneficial to micromanage on some occasions, and here’s when.
If you are a part of a startup company, it is practically unavoidable due to the fact that there are very few people who know what the project is about.
So your role would be to share your idea with your employers, basically, you would be imparting the company’s vision so that in the future they would perform at their best.
Even if your company is not new, you might have a new employer at some point, so micromanaging would be a part of their training, getting them up to speed.
This situation requires micromanaging because you also have to get to know the newest member of your team, recognize his talent, strengths, and weaknesses, in order to later use those skills the best way possible.
Pay attention to stop micromanaging the moment you see that they got your idea, that they understood your company’s values and let them be autonomous in their work.
A significant upside of micromanaging, if handled properly, is employee motivation.
Naturally, we admire the people that lead by example.
So if you roll up your sleeves and show your employers that you can do the job, instead just tell others what to do, it will earn you respect and admiration, and finally, it will motivate everybody to pull their weight.
Overdoing it is a possible consequence, as human nature is to enjoy the admiration.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE BEING MICROMANAGED?
What you should think about if you notice that you are being micromanaged is that your boss does not trust you enough to give you autonomy over assignments.
So, what is it that you can do to change that? Your initial response might be that you lose self-confidence and pull back, and you should actually do the opposite.
Open up, show your boss that you are qualified to do what is required from you, that you are responsible and capable, and earn their trust.
WHAT IS DELEGATING?
There is a common saying: “If you want it done right, do it yourself”.
If you live by this concept you are actually micromanaging, but what you should do in order to create a successful employer-employee relationship, where everyone is satisfied and happy to come to work and contribute is to delegate.
Delegating is passing the responsibility for a task or an assignment to another person who is lower in rank, but you still remain accountable for the outcome. It is a favorable style of business management characterized by mutual trust between the manager and the employees.
The results acquired in this form of business leadership are based on everyone doing their best while relying on their own set of skills. In this model of management, the manager is just a supervisor, not a controller.
However, this is not an easy task, though it may seem like that at a glance. Delegating demands careful planning on what and to whom to delegate, and that takes time.
This is why sometimes managers get into a trap, thinking that they can skip on all that planning, and then end up ordering employers around, or giving a task to someone who is not good for that particular assignment, but would be remarkable at some other.
WHAT IS HIGH PERFORMANCE DELEGATING?
The traps that you can fall into without preparation lead to you only having an impression that you are delegating, while in fact you could be just confusing your employees, or even go back to micromanaging.
It is preferable to spend some time getting to know your people, their skills and talents, see what motivates them and pass down the tasks accordingly, rather than just giving them out.
Essentially, you will spend more time micromanaging each and every subordinate, than what you have spent making the plan.
Now, be careful on what types of assignments you delegate. Delegating unwanted, boring or overflow tasks is not good delegation.
You would need to do that, too, but if your range of delegated assignments remains on that level, your employees will be unmotivated, as what is boring for you might be boring or extremely easy for them as well.
The base of good delegation is summed up in this quote by Dr. Julian Birkinshaw, a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, and an author of fifteen books on management. He says: ” …management is getting work done through other people and enabling them to do their best work. ”
Put yourself in the shoes of your subordinates, do you do your best work when you are continuously exposed to menial and boring tasks? That creates workplace drones, and your people are simply going through the motions in order to “get it over with”.
So, what are the characteristics of high-performance delegation?
First and foremost, challenge your employees to grow and learn. And how do you do that?
You achieve that by giving them something they have to work hard to finish, but not as hard as to become discouraged. You give them something that motivates them because it is interesting and meaningful for your business’ image.
In that way, they will also do those menial tasks routinely, and feel respected for doing them. Continuous learning and development create better, more productive employees.
Next, you should focus on results and give up control of the process to the employees. We have already talked about how this can be challenging for you, but it is crucial if you want to use your subordinates’ talents to the company’s advantage.
So, focus on what- it gives them a clear image of the goals that are to be achieved, and focus on why- it gives them the idea on what drives the company, you as a manager and by association- them.
What you should not do is focus on how, and this is because not everybody reaches the same goal in the exact same way.
You as a manager need to be aware of that and give your employees the liberty to reach the mutual goal on their own independent way.
Do not forget that you need to keep watch of the progress, so occasionally ask your employees to send you a brief account of what they have done so far. Avoid demanding lengthy reports to avoid micromanaging.
What you can and should do, is debate methodologies and ideas, but do not try to impart yours as a must.
Establish criteria by which your subordinates work so that they have a clear image of what are the company’s plans for the next period (present them with a plan for the next six months, or a year).
Creating healthy work relations and a healthy work environment is fundamental to a successful business.
HOW DO YOU CREATE FUTURE MANAGERS THROUGH DELEGATING?
To give an answer to this question, we will start you off with another: why do you need to create future managers?
The answer is simple- you need them.
You will take a vacation at some point (as you should, in order not to burn out). so what will happen to your business if you go away for a period of time and do not have somebody to rely on to take over for you?
Firstly, some issues will probably come out that your subordinates won’t know how to handle creating more issues for you when you come back, and secondly, you will not be able to recharge your batteries to be able to concentrate on new tasks since you will be stressed out thinking about what is happening back at the company.
What kind of subordinates do you need? You need autonomous people who are creative, effective and productive. Now, let us rewind a little bit and provide you with an answer to how you should create capable managers. The key words are trust, safety, and guidance.
We already talked about trusting that your subordinates will do their job the best they are able to. It gives them confidence in their own capacities and motivates them to provide you with the best results.
When we talk about guidance, you should give parameters within which they can make decisions that are away from the given standards (rather than step by step instructions). Also, give them the authority to make those decisions and risks that entail them.
That leads us to the point of safety. Your employees need to feel that it is safe for them to make those risks and not be afraid of the consequences.
They need to know that you will have their back if something goes wrong, that you will talk through the problem, allow them to learn from those mistakes and assist them in finding solutions for the problems and for avoiding them in the future.
Both you and your employees benefit from this approach. They will feel trusted, respected and fulfilled, which will make them successful, and they will grow really fast in terms of skills sets and abilities.
When we feel endangered by something (in the workplace, that can be a rivalry as opposed to healthy competition or fear of making a mistake, and so on), we spend a lot of our energy to protect ourselves from those factors which lead to the weakening of the organization. We are at our most productive when we feel safe to combine our strengths and talents and “face the danger”.
MANAGER VS LEADER
Throughout this text, we have used the word ‘manager’ in fairly technical terms, to explain the rank in a company, where the manager is superior to the other employees.
However, we have been explaining the micromanagement and delegation calling on emotions like fear, trust, safety, characteristics like insecurity and ego. And this might seem a little bit odd, as the technical does not mix well with the emotional.
So why do you think we did that? The reason is – we wanted to point out the importance of people in the management process, the importance of getting to know them on a deeper level.
And to do that you have to take into account all that makes up a person, what drives them, what scares them- and those are all fuelled by emotions.
If you connect on that level, you become more than a manager, you become a leader, someone others will gladly follow. People are important, and your showing them that you care, will encourage them to follow your vision and give their best.
Provide them with education, opportunity, even discipline when needed, build their self-esteem and they will achieve more than both you and they have imagined.
Throughout history, the beloved leaders were those who knew their subordinate’s names, the ones who took interest in their lives.
This led them to think “I matter.” and the fact is, they do because without the followers there wouldn’t be any leaders, to begin with.
Pay attention, though, that leadership does not inherently come with the rank and authority. There are people at the top of organizations that are not leaders, but they have authority over you.
They can fire you for taking to many days-off to take care of your sick child, the leader would take interest in your life, help you get through your problems, and get back stronger.
On the other hand, you have people on the bottom of the organizations, that have no authority whatsoever but are natural-born leaders, and others rely on them for help. Those are the people that you as the manager help improve progress.
Whatever your management style, try to achieve balance, focus on the important, micromanage newcomers for a while and then delegate and let them express their own creativity.
Be a leader that you would be inspired to follow. Do not fall into the compelling traps of micromanagement and trust your people to do their best.
We hope that this article helps you decide how to delegate and when to micromanage, in order to provide the best care for your people, and (re)create your business into a successful, thriving company that offers the best possible service.