How to Avoid Micromanagement

Micromanagement wastes time, money, and energy. Here are 5 simple strategies to keep your team thinking creatively and executing efficiently.

When you dream up and build your own business, you tend to know exactly how to want things done. Naturally, this is too taxing a job for any one person, and as you grow your business, you’ll bound to bring on more employees. This is a great feeling – expansion – but with it comes its own unique set of challenges. One of those is maintaining quality in your executions while also avoiding micromanagement.

Micromanagement, characterized by one’s inability to give up the processes behind executions, can waste time, demoralize employees, and ultimately draw out the time it takes to complete a project. As a manager, you must understand the difference between managing employees and showing employees what to do. The former provides general, but essential direction while the latter forces the manager to execute the tasks themselves, either completely or in part.

So how can you keep knocking projects out while avoiding micromanagement? Consider these few strategies:

1. Know Your Skill Sets

First, as the manager, you have the responsibility to know what skill sets you’re working with. There are likely to be varying levels of competency in your team, and playing to your strengths while identifying growth points is the foundation to avoiding micromanagement and the symptoms it produces. One useful exercise is to create a list of your employees, perhaps in a spreadsheet, and list out their core competencies in the following columns. These should include both traditionally identifiable skills, like skills with Adobe Suite, as well as the observed skills that may be more nuanced, such as personability or ability to enhance team cohesiveness.

2. Clearly Assign Tasks

With an understanding of your team’s skills, you’re next job is to lay out the tasks for each team member. Remember that as a manager, part of your job is also to strengthen your employees’ skills in the interest of your company (something we’ll talk more about below), so don’t always give everyone the same tasks. Being clear with who you assign tasks too doesn’t mean be rigid in employee workflow (a detriment to any mind).

Part of the benefits of clearly assigning tasks, beyond making sure that you know who’s doing what, is that everyone else also knows who is doing what. This is not only important for communication purposes, but also for accountability purposes. As an employee, knowing what others are working on and knowing that they understand your workload can help motivate you to work harder. It can even create a sense of gamification among peers.

3. Support the Team & Identify Needs

Avoiding micromanagement doesn’t mean avoiding management altogether, nor does it mean you should outright ignore the processes that are taking place to accomplish company tasks. Instead, take an active role in the knowledge and creativity that is serving as the fuel for your team. Understand the workflow (something that should be easy for a manager, who should understand the objectives he tasks his employees with), and refine it whenever possible.

In a similar vein, be active in identifying the needs of your employees – if you someone is held up because of a lack of resources or there is a communication breakdown, be there to support your team and work out the kinks. Most managing comes down to keeping efficiency, which often comes down to ensuring your qualified employees have what they need.

4. Allow for Creativity in the Process

Part of avoiding micromanagement is the detachment from your specific way of doing things. While you can and should create guides for your team members, often the more detailed the better, there is still a certain amount of creativity that needs to be allowed. This doesn’t mean accepting every piece of work without scrutiny, but it does mean you adopt the mindset that management isn’t simply about telling people what to do and how to do it, but it’s about involving people in the creation and refinement of your business. And that leads us to the next point…

5. Create a Culture of Learning

Amazing things happen when you encourage people to learn.

First, because your employees become more skilled in their areas, their productivity and effectiveness raises. In effect, your business sees more value from their time – more efficient workflows, better converting advertisements, and faster customer service are just a few examples. Additionally, by exposing your employees to new information, you can help encourage more creative thinking, which drives innovation and potential the next big idea for your business to tackle. The logic here is simple: investing in your employees education is investing in the hands that craft your product.

In a second way, creating a culture of learning is an investment in the human capital of your business. When you take the time to encourage an employee to refine a skill set or send them to a summit, especially one they are interested in, they take notice. When this is communicated in a genuine, thoughtful way, it can work to bind teams together and heighten the respect of leaders. Tell your employees you do not want to micromanage them, and if they don’t know something, learn it anyway they can. Empower them to lead themselves.

This attitude is also important when it comes to those harder situations, like having a demoralized or poorly performing employee. More likely than not, new minds to management may see continued poor work performance due to an ‘attitude problem’ or thinking that a person ‘just can’t get it.’ Personally, I see such thinking as most often associated with a lack of understanding between manager and employee: maybe there is a step misunderstood, or the employee is unskilled at one aspect of the execution. Either way, both people are problem more concerned with the other person than the piece of knowledge that is missing.

This isn’t so when you focus on creating an open, education-driven atmosphere.

For example, with a culture of learning in place, one solution that comes to mind is to pair employees together, and have them work through a process together. This shouldn’t be framed in a ‘Employee A is doing poorly so Employee B needs to train them,’ but rather in more nuanced way, perhaps just for the sake of a team building exercise. This helps keep your time away from micromanagement while allowing for peers in the business to communicate through the actual steps of a project. Here, inefficiencies or the actual reasons to poor performance can be observed in slightly clearer, more approachable light. This keeps employees engaged and learning by showing them you value them and their contribution to your business.

Good Management Starts with You

With this considered, take a moment to reflect on any times you’ve felt like you’ve had to micromanage employees. What were the problems in the process, or what compelled you to keep a watchful eye? How did the solutions employed pan out? Was the problem ever repeated? Why?

Remember that good management starts with you, and that means you should apply the same principles above to your own work. Know your skills, gives yourself the resources to accomplish your tasks, identify your needs, be creative, and never stop learning. With this management style, you’ll rarely face a deadline or challenge you can’t overcome.

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About Jesse Richardson

Jesse Richardson is an author, educator and co-founder of several successful subscription businesses. He focuses on building engaging communities and has been described as "insanely customer centric." Find him in the Subscription School group or at his blog.

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