No-one starts their career by saying they want to be a micro-manager – but micromanagement is an easy trap to fall into.
People often become inadvertent micro-managers from acting with the best possible motivations – sometimes even by being too helpful.
Managers, particularly those who come up through a technical career route, have become successful by solving problems. As they get promoted and become people managers, what could be more natural then to keep solving problems for people?
Unfortunately when you manage people, if all you do is ever solve problems for them, then very quickly they learn that it is just easier to escalate to you for the solution. You may inhibit them from coming up with their own solutions by always having your own solution – especially if it is a better one! At some point you have to let other people solve these problems for themselves.
I did some work with a very large US conglomerate this year, whose name I can’t mention for contractual reasons, focusing on this particular area of micro management and control. We ran some sessions with managers, based around a short self evaluation of “Are you a micro-manager?” asking some basic questions around these themes.
Many people were horrified, because they had never thought of themselves as micro managers- just helpful. On reflection, they realised that in their desire to be helpful, they were often undermining the autonomy and capability building of their own people.
In remote, virtual and matrix teams this can be even worse as team members are often physically or organizationally remote and may find it harder to “fight back” against micromanagement.
My bit of advice for today, if you want to avoid micromanagement, don’t be too helpful.