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IT leadership: Signs you're a micromanager (and how to stop)

Sharon Florentine | March 4, 2015
Micromanagement may seem harmless, but it's sabotaging your teams, your productivity and morale from within, and stifling your business's ability to grow. Here's how to tell if you're a micromanager, and some steps you can take to overcome this fatal flaw.

"When these behaviors are happening, it can be difficult to admit to yourself. But you don't have to relax your quality standards and your results-focused approach in order to be successful. Just like in professional football, you have to watch game tapes to see what you did right, what you did wrong and where to improve," says Hewes.

How to Fix It
No one in a leadership position actively wants to be a micromanager, according to Hewes, but if you find yourself faced with overwhelming evidence, there are steps you can take to change your behavior. The first step is always being aware of the problem and having the willingness to take steps to change.

"You need to be open to soliciting feedback on your behavior, and be receptive to changing it. You must recognize that the way to grow, the way to get work done is by gaining more time -- and you get more time by getting work done with and through others," says Hewes.

Once you've recognized the problem, you must enlist the help of your team and direct reports to help you address it and recognize that change isn't going to happen overnight. "You have to tell people what's happening. It can be very helpful to schedule a sit-down meeting to admit you have a problem and ask for help to make it better. You can say, 'I recognize that I've been all over you, and that it's hindering you. I also recognize that you have skills and talents, and those haven't been empowered effectively. So, let's try some new methods,'" Coleman says.

These new methods could mean meeting with teams or individuals less frequently, or allowing them to work through problems, issues and obstacles without consulting you; only reporting back when problems have been identified, addressed and resolved.

Of course, if you've been micromanaging for a long time, there's a chance your teams aren't going to be able to function independently right off the bat, so you must be prepared for some growing pains. "When you finally decide that you're going to empower your people, understand that you've become an enabler. You haven't ever given them a chance to think or work independently, so just when you want them to start making decisions they may be unable to function without the intense supervision and direction you've given them in the past," says Coleman. That's completely understandable, and you must be patient and willing to work through the inevitable learning curve.

You also should consider doing a cost-benefit analysis of your time and where you're spending it, says Coleman. Every time you get the urge to ask for a status report, or to step in and "help" a colleague with an assigned task or project, ask yourself if what you're about to do falls below your pay grade?


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