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.
In Dr. Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset,” she contrasts a fixed or limited mindset with a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the positive belief that hard work and a desire to stretch your personality, ability, and talent will result in a marked improvement.
I absolutely relate to this message and have a formula for applying it in your life.
For most of us, we are our own worst critic. We beat ourselves up over all kinds of things. I ask the question in all my seminars “Who is your worst critic,” and out of the thousands of responses I have received, all but one said “myself.”
The holdout was one honest man who instantly blurted out “my wife.” We have the power to change our mental pattern if we wish. It is a simple five-step process that you do over and over for 30-60 days until it forms a new habit.
When we engage in negative self talk, even at the unconscious level, it often undermines our self esteem and can lead to physical and mental ailments.
Supervisors operate in a kind of caldron every day and can be susceptible to running themselves down. It is good to be realistic about our shortcomings so we can improve performance as we learn and grow, but it is not a healthy thing to constantly beat up on ourselves for not being perfect.
If you are 48 years old, you have likely spent 48 years forming a habit of negative self talk that limits your performance and may even shorten your life.
The good news is that we humans have a remarkable ability to retrain the brain in a short period of time to form new habits. Research has shown it takes less than a couple months of conscious effort to permanently change a lifelong habit. Here is a simple five-step process that can quickly change the quality of your life, if you give it an honest try.
Step One – Catch it
My mental image here is that we all have a kind of beehive of thoughts about ourselves in our subconscious mind. Many of these thoughts are negative. This mass of energy is whizzing around all the time, and we are not even aware of it.
Every once in a while, often for no reason we can identify, one of these negative thoughts about us jumps up into our conscious mind. We are aware of our inadequacy and thinking about it.
For most of our lives, these thoughts have made us feel kind of sick as we muse on why we are not more perfect. Finally the thought is supplanted by some other thought or a phone call or some other interruption, and the episode is over.
What if we decided to have a growth mindset and actually catch the thought when we are first aware of it? My mental image here is one of reaching up with a catcher’s mitt and catching the thought˗˗plop˗˗ there it is. We have it firmly in hand now. Step one is completed.
The fascinating part of step one is that by simply reading this article, you will have increased your ability to catch the thought while you are having it. (That is the key.) In essence, this article is giving you that catcher’s mitt.
As of now, if you start a stopwatch it will be less than one hour until you have caught your first negative thought using this procedure. By the time you go to bed today you will have caught from three to 12 of these in your mitt. Wow, that is three to 12 opportunities to go on to step two!
Step Two – Reject it
Here I use the mental image of hitting the thought with a tennis racket back into my subconscious mind. I reject the thought, just like a tennis player returns the ball over the net. I often verbalize while doing this using the words “No! I am not doing that any more!”
I only utter the words verbally when I am alone, like in the car or out mowing the lawn. If I am with people, I utter the words silently, but I actually use the words just the same. This has a profound effect, because I am training my mind to form a different thought pattern: a growth mindset.
Step Three – Replace the bad image with a positive one
Now that you have rejected the limiting image of yourself, it is important to replace that thought with an affirming image that you know to be true. You might say, “I am better than this, and will prove it in the future.” In doing this step you are enabling a growth mindset.
Step Four – Reward Yourself
This is an important part of the approach, because this one gives you the impetus to do more of it in the future. Think to yourself, “Hey, that was a good thing. I am actually growing here in my capacity to think more positively. That feels great!”
Step Five – Move on
Here the magic is to put the negativity for this moment behind you and move forward with the affirmative positive and rewarding image solidly in your mind.
That is all there is to this simple method of self improvement. Now you just wait for the next negative thought to come along and repeat the process.
The impact of doing this
At first, this will feel awkward or hokey. Do it anyway because you have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. If you can do it for one day, that will give you enough momentum to do it on day two.
Similarly, by the end of day two you will feel some exhilaration as you praise yourself and continue through day three. By day four it will be pretty easy to keep doing it. If you persist using this method for between one and two months, you will have permanently changed your thought pattern about yourself. You will use this method instinctively for the rest of your life.
Here is my guarantee to you. If you can do this for 30-60 days, sometime during that process someone you love or work with will say something like this, “You have changed. I can’t put my finger on what is different, but you really are a changed individual and you wear it well.” If you are like me, several people in your life will notice a difference.
The most important person to notice a difference is you. You feel better because you really are better. You have beaten a life long habit of thinking negative thoughts about yourself, yet you still maintain the ability to see your true flaws accurately and learn from your mistakes. It is just that you have stopped punishing yourself over and over for not being good enough. What a burden lifted.
I urge you to try this simple five step approach. Look at it this way, it takes almost no time to do this, it costs you nothing, it is uplifting and fun, it improves the quality of your life, it is easy to do, and you can do it privately so nobody else has to know. So, for no expenditure of cash or even effort, you will be shaping yourself into a new person. Once you see the benefits of this method, don’t hoard it for yourself. Teach others the wonderful relief of this technique, because as you help others you also help yourself.
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. 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, firstname.lastname@example.org or 585.392.7763