Micromanaging often comes with a negative connotation. While a manager is expected to keep projects on track and make sure goals are met, that doesn’t mean doing it themselves. The main responsibility of a leader is getting work done through others. Your job is to empower and support, which is arguably harder than many other tasks. When you’re passionate about a project, it can be hard to step back.
Unfortunately, there are consequences to being a micromanager. It often makes employees feel restricted, limiting creativity and can negatively influence employee productivity. If you’re leading a team and you feel the need to do everything, you need to evaluate your leadership approach. If you struggle to avoid micromanaging, here are four ways you can still help without taking over.
1. Ask how you can offer support
Many articles offer advice on how to best lead a team. The truth is, there is no “best” way. A leader needs to consider the needs of each individual on their team and adjust their approach accordingly. If you haven’t talked to your team about what kind of support works best for them, schedule a meeting. If you’ve struggled with micromanaging in the past, create a meeting agenda to stay on track.
Remember to let them speak. It shows that you respect your employees’ time and what they have to say. You’ll probably learn useful information too. Designating a time to let your employees talk about their needs is valuable because it often highlights areas for improvement. There could be aspects that need to change within the workflow process or employees might need more resources.
Keep to the agenda though, so that it doesn’t devolve into a ranting session. If employees do complain, try not to take personal offense or be dismissive to any issues brought up. You could arrange a follow up meeting, if necessary, to address issues that require more long-term solutions. If an issue comes up once, it will likely return.
2. Adapt your leadership style
The information you gather from your meeting about support preferences should inform your approach to leadership. Listening to your employees is the first step, but you also have to apply that information. If you don’t, they probably aren’t going to be as likely to share their thoughts in the future.
Your team may not be able to directly tell you what types of support they need, but there should be signs that point to a particular approach. If your team requests more autonomy, take a more laissez faire approach. Show that you trust them, and take a step back. This hands-off approach lets your team make decisions. It can often be rewarding, as they will come up with creative solutions that you likely wouldn’t have.
Some team members thrive if you adopt a transactional approach to leadership. They may need a reward system put in place. Other members of the team will value having a transformational leader. If this is the case, you’ll want to help them grow by delegating leadership opportunities and encouraging professional development. If your business is constantly changing, you may need to adopt a situational approach and change your style to meet the situation. Leadership is not one size fits all, and there will be trial and error to see what works for you.
3. Clearly communicate expectations and priorities
Communication can be hard. Some managers subscribe to the belief that only company leaders should be privy to certain information. This often creates a top-down communication network, which often causes those at the bottom to be left in the dark. While it’s true everyone in a company doesn’t need to know everything, certain information should be easily accessible and shared with all.
If your organization utilizes a top-down approach, update it. You can still keep that method of communication, but adding a centralized communication platform could be helpful. Use a cloud system to store key documents that lay out company expectations. Make documents such as industry resources and your employee handbook available. You could also add project management software to establish when certain projects take priority over others.
You should also value bottom-up communication, as it often increases employee morale and collaboration. Establish a slack channel to send out company-wide announcements. This system would also allow any employee to ask a question or raise a concern. However, to support this level of communication, you have to foster a supportive culture. The meeting discussed in section one is a great start.
4. Foster accountability
Part of being a successful leader is showing your team that you trust them. As you take a step back to avoid micromanaging, you’ll have team members step up. You have leaders amongst your employees, and part of your responsibility is to encourage them. When projects arise, see if certain employees want to take the lead. As a manager, you want your workers to feel a sense of ownership because then they’ll feel accountable for the project’s success.
While some workers may be eager to step up, they might not have the experience they need to lead a team. You should be there to catch them if they fall, and talk them through what went wrong. The common phrase, “you learn from your mistakes” is true. The hardest part about being a leader is that sometimes you have to let people fail. As long as you take the learning opportunity, it’s likely going to be ok.
Ask if they’d like your support, and step in to help without taking over. Or direct them to another team member who would know what to do. You want to strengthen the connections between coworkers to have a business that functions as a well-oiled machine. Then, the next time a challenge arises, your workers will know they can rely on one another and persevere.
All leaders won’t have perfect days, and that is expected. However, the trick is to do the best you can for your team. Set meetings that are productive, be adaptive, communicate clearly and listen to your employees’ needs. While it may be easier to see areas where your team needs to improve, look at yourself first.
Even if you’re doing a great job, ask your employees. Create a culture of two-way feedback. Listening is an essential skill that’s often overlooked. But if you do it well, your employees will notice and your business will benefit.
Rashan Dixon is a senior business systems analyst at Microsoft, an entrepreneur and a writer for various business publications.