Nobody sets out to be a micro-manager but there are many traps in complex organizations that can lead us to fall into inadvertent micromanagement. Once you are have started to micromanage it can be difficult to step back and restore the right balance of control and autonomy.

Here are a few of the micromanagement traps

  • There are several factors that undermine trust – multi-site working, time zones, cultural differences and communicating through technology can all cause misunderstanding or unfulfilled expectations. When this happens managers often respond by increasing central control.
  • Managers who have been promoted from problem solving jobs (particularly technical roles) have succeeded by solving problems fast. Without the necessary management training they may continue to show this behaviour in their people management roles. By being too helpful and solving problems themselves they dis-empower their people and effectively “train” them to bring all problems to the manager for solution.
  • A higher level of management control may be appropriate (though micromanagement never is) when people are new to their jobs or economic conditions are critical. However, though companies are full of mechanisms for increasing control when they need to, there are rarely tools available to relax control when we can.

Nobody who has been on a training course or read a business book in the last 50 years can have missed the message that empowerment is good. Often the traps above lead us into inadvertent micromanagement. But once this pattern is established and escalation is the norm it can be hard to break out of.

We need to do this in a managed way that also builds trust and confidence in the manager and their people.

  1. Build capability – it would be stupid to empower people who cannot do the job
  2. Build confidence – use coaching to develop the confidence in both parties that they are able and willing to make decisions for themselves
  3. Set up the right support levels so that both parties feel comfortable but not micromanaged.

Find out more about this systematic and managed approach to building autonomy and recovering from micromanagement.

About the author:

Kevan Hall Kevan Hall is a CEO, author, speaker and trainer in matrix management, virtual teams and global working. He is the author of "Speed Lead - faster, simpler ways to manage people, projects and teams in complex companies, "Making the Matrix work - how matrix managers engage people and cut through complexity", and the "Life in a Matrix" podcasts, videos, cartoons and blog. He is CEO and founder of Global Integration. Company profile: .

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