As new managers step into their leadership role, they should take care to avoid the micromanager trap. An obsession with details can distract managers from crucial responsibilities, such as the department’s strategic contribution to the organization.
There are other consequences to micromanagement as well. In the long run, this approach can produce resentment in employees. Creativity dries up. Customer service suffers. And a micromanager’s best employees look elsewhere for employment.
First-time managers must adapt to the more strategic, big-picture responsibilities of their positions. That’s the best way to earn the respect of team members. Here are eight steps to make the transition and free employees to use their skills and abilities:
Think about your responsibilities and priorities as a manager. Some executives aren’t always clear about what they expect from a new manager, particularly one who is promoted from within. They think the first-time manager will understand his or her role. Take time to review your job description, and meet with your own manager to get a clear idea of your priorities. Review the immediate and long-term goals for the department to ensure you’re on the right track.
Look into the future. Consider your vision for the department and its contribution to the broader corporate vision, then plan accordingly. Begin to get beyond day-to-day pressures.
Share your vision and the rationale behind it with employees. Be specific about the vision and ask your team to help you attain it. Don’t tell employees what to do. Tell them what your needs are and encourage them to think strategically about helping to meet them.
Generate expectations for each employee in achieving the vision. What will each employee do to contribute to the department’s mission? The company’s? Draw up specific lists for individuals.
In addition, delegate responsibility that will encourage employees to reach for the top. When you make assignments, challenge them with their increased responsibility and the opportunity to contribute to the bigger picture. Share your role in this as well.
Put aside fears about abdicating responsibility for the department. This is not to suggest that you don’t supervise your staff; rather, learn to trust employees more. Practice situational leadership, in which you adapt the level of management to each employee’s capabilities and the importance of the task.
Listen to employees. Listening will tell you how you can support them in meeting business goals. So if an employee has an idea, truly listen. If it won’t work, explain why not and brainstorm with the employee on how the idea can be made to work. At the very least, suggest he or she think about the problems with the idea and come back with them resolved.
Develop the habit of praising employees. If you haven’t said “thank you” to an employee in the past three days, and sincerely meant it, go out of your way to find a reason to compliment a staff member’s work. Acknowledging a job well done can become as habitual as micromanaging.
Allow mistakes to happen. Micromanagers may abhor mistakes, but errors can occur even when you micromanage. Learn to share the responsibility for getting tasks done with employees. As long as they don’t make the same mistake over and over, and ultimately take over the work without your input, you’ll be ahead of the game.
Provide feedback. When employees demonstrate the skills, abilities, and knowledge you want, let them know. If performance falls short of expectation, sit down and discuss the matter. Don’t ignore a problem—that is, abdicating your responsibility as a leader. Discuss the matter with the employee and come up with a plan to avoid a recurrence.
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