While recently with a leadership team, we were discussing anonymous feedback that each leader had received from their direct reports. One of the leaders had received negative feedback that he was a micromanager and had a tendency to over manage his team.
He was shocked at the feedback, feeling he was doing everything in his power to keep his team happy and motivated. When I questioned Scott (not his real name) why the feedback was so bothersome he responded, “I am only trying to help my team. I don’t understand why they view me as a micromanager. I have been in their shoes and held that position. I know the pitfalls and can save them stress and problems by my involvement. I was very successful in that role. They all know that!”
I absolutely understood his point and the motivation behind his actions, but I also realized the reasoning behind his over involvement in his team’s projects.
Scott had once held the position of his direct reports and had been very successful. He was viewing all his strengths and accomplishments in the role and then comparing them to the weaknesses of his team members.
Scott later revealed that he was “really good at speaking with the customers and knew the product so well he could overcome any objection.”
He then followed up with the comment, “some of my team members aren’t that good at communicating with customers.” Now, this may have been due to a myriad of issues such as training, coaching or a bad hire, but the reason doesn’t matter.
Scott viewed himself as someone who could do the job better than any of his team members.
Not a good way for a manager to think!
Scott wanted a quick fix to his problem and with two recently open positions on his team to fill he needed to make sure that he hired the right people.
My advice to Scott was twofold: First, Scott needed to search for and hire someone who was smarter than he was and who — one they were trained and engrained in the position — could do the job better than he could.
Scott was trying to complete all of his own tasks and projects while also trying to assist and manage the projects and work of his direct reports. There is no way anyone could keep up such a crazy, hectic schedule.
If Scott can find someone who is excellent in that job, he can quit micromanaging, focus on his own work and lessen his stress.
Phil Libin who is the CEO of Evernote has a rule for every individual who reports to him. “Everyone who reports to me has to be much better at doing his or her job than I could ever be.” If Phil hires you, you know you had better be really good at your job, but you also know he trusts you to do it.
Second, for his current team members Scott needed to diagnose why there was a need for his continued involvement with his team’s projects. Did he not trust his team? Did they need extra training? Did he have a true view of their strengths and abilities or was his focus on his own?
Once he knew the reason he could take appropriate action to make each of his team members better at the role than he was.
These were just a few questions I sent Scott out the door with at the end of the day, but they were meant to make him think who and how he hired. The next time you find yourself micromanaging first look at yourself. Remember, it’s your career.
A consultant, author, PhD, triathlete, father, and resident of Gilbert, Dr. CK Bray is a career and organizational development expert who has worked with numerous organizations – ranging from Fortune 500 companies to emerging start-ups. He can be reached at ck@DrCKBray.com or find his blog and more at www.DrCKBray.com.