Are you a micromanager?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
  1. Are you frustrated that your employees don’t do their work as well as you would do it?
  2. Do you frequently correct your employees’ correspondence and redo their reports and presentation slides?
  3. Even if you don’t do their work for them, do you review their work and have them redo it according to your specifications? Do you even send it back again and again until they get it the way you want it?
  4. Do you find you spend more time on projects and technical work than on coaching your employees to do the work? 

Ironically, if you ask micromanagers why they do it, they’ll tell you that they have high standards and a heightened sense of accountability. That’s fine if they are going to do the work themselves, but it is deadly when they are trying to over control the actions of their employees.  

These back seat drivers kill initiative and motivation. Good employees will become frustrated and leave and mediocre employees will become drones, doing only what they are told to do.  

So how do you direct and coach, without over doing it?

  • When you are delegating work, spend enough time on the front end discussing and clarifying the desired outcomes, rather than saying nothing and then critiquing at the end. Even a short project requires clarification on the front end. Saying, “Handle this,” is a micromanager’s trap.
  • If an employee seems off track, ask the employee to share his or her thought process with you. If you think employees are overlooking something say so, but then put it back in their lap and ask them for alternative ideas. By listening to the thoughts behind their actions you will learn where their blind spots are. Once they see the problem, they may be able to solve it on their own. If not, you can guide them to a better solution. Do not take the work back and do it yourself. It doesn’t teach employees any skills and makes the manager the chief “doer.” 
  • Ask for regular progress reports but don’t expect your employees to be “Mini-me’s”. As long as they get to an acceptable end result, resist the urge to make them do everything your way.  
  • One way to keep in touch without overdoing it is to have regular weekly updates. It’s an opportunity to check in and see how their projects are coming. This allows you the opening to coach as the work evolves. The operative word is “coach” not “tell.” If you have a history of micromanaging, don’t be surprised to find that employees try to hide their work from you. They don’t want you meddling. Your new approach will gradually encourage them to be more open about what they are doing. 
  • Master artful questioning and careful listening. For example, “How do you plan to approach this?” “How are you planning to get buy in on this?” “What are you going to do to get Marketing involved?” “Do you have any ideas for solving this problem?” 

Once a micromanager pulls his nose out of the weeds, he is likely to ask, “If I don’t control the day-to-day work, what am I supposed to be doing?” It varies but often includes getting closer to customer needs, developing strategies and new initiatives, communicating and collaborating with other divisions, and in short—leading. 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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