Leadership Barometer 45 Stop Micromanaging

April 5, 2020

Leaders who micromanage do so with the best of intentions. Unfortunately they seldom recognize that what they are doing is actually taking the organization in a direction they do not want to go.

The problem is that by micromanaging people, the manager is severely limiting performance rather than optimizing it, so the manager is operating at cross purposes to the actual goal.

Unwittingly the manager is removing incentive for effort and creativity on the part of the employee. We are so familiar with this problem simply because it is so prevalent in organizations. In this article, I seek to contrast micromanagement versus trust to give some insight on how the latter leads to greatly enhanced performance.

To micromanage someone implies a lack of trust. The manager is not confident the employee can or will do a job correctly, so the employee is besieged with “helpful” instructions from the manager on exactly how to perform tasks. At first, the intrusion is irritating to the employee, who has her own ideas on how to do the job. After a while, it simply degenerates into an opportunity to check out mentally and join the legion of disenchanted workers doing what they are told and collecting a paycheck. This leaves the employee’s power on the door step of the organization every day.

To trust an employee is to think enough of the person to treat him or her as a thinking person who can have good ideas if given a goal and some broad operating parameters. In an environment of trust, employees have the freedom to explore, innovate, create, stretch, and yes, sometimes make mistakes. These mistakes might be thought of as waste, but enlightened leaders think of them simply as learning opportunities.

Here are 9 ideas that can help leaders and managers reduce the tendency to micromanage, thus unleashing a greater portion of the power available to the organization.

1. Set clear goals and make sure your employees have the basic skills and tools to do the job
2. Be clear on the broad constraints within which the employee must operate. In other words, do not let the employee try to conquer the world with a tuna-fish can.
3. Express trust in the employee and encourage creativity and risk taking as long as the risks are well-considered and safe.
4. Reject the temptation to step in if the employee seems to struggle, rather make yourself available if there are any questions or requests for help
5. Provide the resources the employee needs to accomplish the tasks
6. Do not totally overload the employee with so many duties and projects that she cannot succeed at any of them
7. Express praise and gratitude for positive baby steps along the way
8. Give the employee time and space to try different approaches without having to explain why she is doing every step
9. If problems occur, consider them as learning experiences and ask the employee to describe how she would do things differently next time

These 9 ideas are all simple, but they are nearly impossible for a micromanager to accomplish without constant effort. The concept of trusting employees does involve some risk, but the rewards of having people working up to their full potential rather than just complying is well worth that risk. You will see better, faster, and more robust solutions if you trust people and let their natural talents surface in an environment of little micromanagement.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.


Enjoy Your Dance

February 12, 2019

I love to watch young children dance to the music with great abandon. Unfortunately, as we grow into adults, we rarely get the opportunity to be as free and uninhibited as we were when we were kids.

How do you feel about being you right now? Be truthful with yourself, and think about how much you like yourself right this moment. This article, hopefully, will jolt you into a different frame of mind relative to your happiness and the quality of your life.

I teach many online courses, and deal with students from all over the world. I recall one interchange between a student living in a frigid part of the USA and another student in Hawaii.

At one point, the student who lived in Detroit was lamenting another dreary day, and he had reached the breaking point. His comment to the student in Hawaii was, “Well, I have to take responsibility for my own misery. After all, I chose not to live in paradise.” I immediately wrote to the complaining student reminding him that “paradise” is a state of mind rather than a state of the Union.

There are numerous things that gauge the level of satisfaction and happiness we milk out of living. This article focuses on one’s perception of self.
Most of us are in the middle of a long progression of the days of our lives. It feels like a long time since our days of youth and exuberance, and we have a long way to go before somebody puts us in a pine box. We live each day reacting to the forces and challenges that hit us. Some days are good, and others are less happy.

We are what we are because that is what we have chosen to be. Many people go through life being unhappy with themselves and blaming others or circumstances (like if I only had a smaller nose). We have such a short time on this planet, and it would be smart to be happy with ourselves first and foremost.

Nobody else has to wake up with you and be with you 100% of the time, so if you are not happy with yourself, the quality of your precious life is diminished. Who would be to blame for that? Hmmm…let me think.

My observation of our lives in the grand scheme of the universe and the ages is that human beings are all like little kids. You have to go up only a few miles and look down through a telescope, and you can observe us all dancing around all over the world as we move through our day.

We show up and dance around for a fleeting 80-100 years, and then we are gone. Eighty years in celestial time is hardly a blink. Better make sure you are enjoying your dance.

Our possessions that we covet, our money that we lust after, make very little difference in the end. All that matters is how much of an impact we have managed to have on others, how much love we have generated, and how much we have enjoyed our dance.

What are some of the things that contribute to enjoying your dance? Here are a few examples. (Note, this list is not exhaustive.)

Making a contribution:

We all make contributions, both good and bad. If you have provided one shred of thought that has been recorded and provided value to other people, you have made a contribution. Two shreds counts for double that value, so provide many shreds of value to the advancement of society.

Finding honest love:

If we feel deeply in our soul that we have loved the people in our lives, then we go to our grave reflecting on a life well lived. This, of course, includes family, but it also includes heroes, mentors, classmates, pets, friends, grocers, frogs, lamps, books, and any other person or thing that we truly love.

Believing in an Infinite Power:

Many people think of this as religion, but it really covers the entire realm of spiritual awareness. I do not know about you, but I really do believe that something is guiding my steps at times, and it is not just me.

There have been too many remarkable surprises handed to me in life for me to take credit for thinking them up or for them to be just random coincidences. You can call it what you wish, but there is an Infinite Presence there somehow.

Helping others:

Whenever you give of yourself to help another, you feel great about yourself. That effort is a really good dance in your daily routine. The help can come in any form, and the only criterion is that at that time you were thinking more about the other person’s situation than your own. The help could be financial, physical, emotional, or even comical.

Making something:

To create a thing of beauty, or even ugliness since beauty is subject to interpretation, is a good dance. Some people are really good at this, like my father, who painted over 2000 fine watercolor paintings after the age of 55. Some people create great food or fine woodwork. To shape the elements into a new configuration that has never been done is intrinsically rewarding. Most creations are not marketable, but they are physical evidence that we were around and dancing happily.

Teaching or mentoring:

As we seek to impart some of our wisdom onto other people, we give the gift of knowledge. It is a subset of helping others, but this one is special, because we target the help on an individual who benefits from it.

For a person with great insight and knowledge to keep it to himself really wastes his dance time. I think it is really difficult to mentor from the grave, although some people do believe strongly in doing it or receiving it, which is part of their own dance.

Appreciating what you experience:

This attitude is all about not being numb to the beauty all around us every day. Seeing the small acts of kindness of one person toward another brings us joy. Marveling at the beauty of a flower, the taste of raspberry Jello, or the Bach B Minor Mass provides deep joy, but only if you are awake and paying attention.

Loving what you do:

The ability to look at each day as an adventure into the possible instead of a drudgery of our current agony is what lifts us up. Hope is there when you enjoy your work and your play. There is a choice you make every day as you dance through it.

Those are just eight examples from the top of my head of how to make the most out of your 80+ year dance. Who knows, you might beat the odds and dance until you are older than 100, or you might check out in your 20s.

You will notice the absence of wealth or possessions on my list, because I think those things dry up and blow away very quickly after we stop dancing. In the grand scheme of the world and the eons of time, the only thing that really matters is what you did with your opportunity to dance, not how big a pile of clutter you were able to generate.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763