Seven Ways to Stop Micromanaging

Imagine offering a visitor a drink when he comes to visit you at work.  He requests tea, milk, one sugar.  You go into the kitchen and he follows you in there.  Nothing too unusual, and you chat whilst you prepare the drinks.  Then he asks you to use a teapot, not put the teabag in the mug as you usually do.  He prompts you to warm the pot first.  He then suggests that you put three teabags in the pot – one each and “one for the pot”, as his old Mum always said.  You put the water in and stir, feeling a little vexed and quite uncomfortable.  You go to put the milk in the mugs and he stops you, saying it is best to add it after the tea, so you know how much milk to put in according to how strong the tea is.  As you pick up the pot, he requests that you leave it to stand for another minute or two, to let the tea brew properly.  You breathe in and count to ten in your head.  Finally, you pour it out, and offer him the milk and sugar to put in himself (you wouldn’t dare to add them yourself by now).  You then take him back to your office for your meeting.

How would you feel in this scenario?  Irritated?  Stressed?  Bemused?  You are perfectly capable of making a good cup of tea.  If you had asked another member of staff to make it, he likely wouldn’t have followed them, and you are sure he would have happily drunk the cup of tea that they would have made.

This is a little tale to demonstrate the matter of micromanaging someone.  Giving them a job to do and not allowing them to do it in their own way, not trusting them to perform a job they have been employed to do and are perfectly competent to do.  Or at least capable enough to ask if they find themselves unable to do aspects of it.

People often micromanage due to fear.  They may worry about losing control over certain tasks;  they may not be very experienced in how to manage people;  they may believe they are better than everyone else, have a strong desire for power, so feel the need to dominate and control team members;  they may be concerned they will be shown up by people who are better than them;  they may feel insecure and/or have a poor self image.

So, if you are aware (or are made aware) that you are micromanaging your staff, what can you do about it?

  1. Recruit the right people for the job: Employ the right people in your team to accomplish required tasks, then leave them to it. As the old saying says, “don’t keep a dog and bark yourself”. People may be better suited, better qualified, better placed, more available than you to do the task, and that is why you have employed them. If they aren’t yet quite capable, assess if they need training, coaching or mentoring to bring them up to speed.
  2. Trust your team: Without trust, a team is unable to function properly. Staff will be increasingly afraid to act, feel less motivated and the environment becomes toxic (see my previous blog about Building Trust).
  3. Challenge them: Encourage your team members out of their comfort zone. Stretching them will test their perceived limits and empower them to grow, become more confident, and discover more of their strengths, knowledge, skills and understanding. Be careful, however, not set them up to fail, as this will have an adverse effect, making them feel incompetent and knocking their confidence. Good leaders inspire people to be successful.
  4. Give clear expectation and leave them to work: Clearly define the outcome/objectives, any deadline and quality required. People won’t necessarily approach a task in the same way but if the outcome is as required, this shouldn’t really matter. Leave them make appropriate decisions to meet the objectives. Assure them you will be there to help and support if they ask you. Offer your help as a team member too, if they want it, in any specific areas which are your strengths and in a way in which you can contribute alongside them.
  5. Ask your team members how they would like you to manage them: Check and agree with them how often they want you to be updated on progress whilst the work is being done.
  6. Review and feed back: At the end, review the process with your team member. Give positive feedback and praise, celebrate successes, stating particular points which went well. Discuss what lessons can be learned, if any, support them and enable them to grow through the experience.
  7. Reflect: Review your own handling of the process. Did you give any input which was not requested or needed? Was there any time when you stepped in and shouldn’t have? How else could you have improved?

If you manage your team members well, without micromanaging them, you will empower them, enable them to feel more valued, improve their job satisfaction and performance and actually have more time to do the job you are employed to do too.  This will mean your job is more rewarding, productive and enjoyable as well.


For help with being a more confident manager, see the unique Confident New Manager Programme, or book a Leadership Skills training course.

Contact Janet Baker at [email protected] for further information.



Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay