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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Micromanagement of a different kind

Who wants to be called a micro-manager? I sure don’t. This label carries mostly negative connotations, implying you have a hard time trusting your people and letting them handle things themselves. It includes having difficulty providing your people with the necessary degrees of freedom in which to exceed and experiment while allowing mistakes to learn from. Most people know it is debilitating if you fail in this area, but too many still don’t know the difference between being effectively in control and micromanaging.
I appreciate the distinction made by Michael Schrage in the Harvard Business Review Blog on May 23rd, 2012 in his post If You're Not Micromanaging, You're Not Leading. Schrage talks about the difference between being a control freak and wanting to know and experience the raw data, where “leaders want to see — and feel — what's going on with their own eyes and gut; they want to draw upon their own experiences and expertise” as opposed to the micromanagers who want a “greater command of detail in order to tell people what to do”. Merely telling people what to do and how to do it on a detailed level hardly ever works out well as most of us have experienced at one point in our careers.
Schrage goes on to say that “The best micromanagers go to the source, so they can see, listen, and understand better; the control freaks do it to remind people that they run the whole show”. The latter is hardly what you want to accomplish, since it’s not about you or any one person to run the show, but about the show to be run in the best possible way – and as the old Taoist saying goes: When the work is done, the people can say “We did it all ourselves”.
The kind of micromanaging where you want to run the whole show and be in control of every detail is disempowering to say the least. You don’t want to take perfectly positive attributes such as an attention to detail and a hands-on attitude to the extreme. If you do, you’re likely obsessed with control or you might feel driven to push everyone around you to success, either way likely ruining confidence and accountability, hurting performance, and frustrating people to the point where they might quit.
You might ask yourself: Where is the line between being an involved, informed, and engaged supervisor, manager, or leader and an over-involved, stifling one who's driving his team mad? If you recognize any of the following than you’re in the danger zone:
1. Difficulty delegating tasks.
2. Overseeing the projects of others by immersing yourself in them.
3. Discouraging people from making decisions without consulting you.
4. Taking back delegated work upon the slightest sign of a mistake.
5. Correcting details at the expense of guarding the bigger picture.
6. Preventing employees from making their own decisions and from taking responsibility for those decisions.
Micromanagement restricts the ability of micromanaged people to develop and grow and it limits what the team can achieve. Don’t let this be your legacy. Yes, great chefs visit the farms and markets that source their restaurants, because they know that raw ingredients are critical to success. But they don't tell the farmers where and how to farm. 

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