Monday, December 21, 2009

Are you a micromanager?

The Wall Street Journal has an article today about CEOs getting into the weeds much more during this downturn. While the article explains why leaders feel the need to be more hands-on at this tumultous time, it also cites the risk of micromanagement. This leads to the question: how do you know if you are micromanaging with possible negative consequences? Here are three signs:

1. You begin to find many decisions being kicked up to you on issues you feel do not belong on your desk... A sign that people may be afraid to make decisions on their own.

2. Your schedule becomes increasingly crowded with meetings at which you are being asked to essentially validate decisions made at lower levels, or to review numerous minor status update meetings on projects.

3. People seem to wait for you to express your opinion before offering ideas at meetings. That sign is most dangerous of all. It shows that folks are afraid to speak up and are waiting for a cue from you rather than offering original and creative thoughts without fear of repurcussions.


Stuart Reid said...

Hi Michael - that's a very recognisable list for me, from the time when I was a manager. This situation is something that Susan Scott writes about in her book "Fierce Conversations" (particularly the third item on your list, where people wait to hear the manager's opinion).

Scott has some good practical advice about what to do if you fear this is happening. I think she would still encourage the manager to share his or her opinion (rather than pretending they don't have one). But it's how the manager then behaves that is crucial - they should ask genuine open questions to see whether their colleagues understand what they have said, whether they see it differently, and whether they have information that the manager doesn't have that might be relevant to the decision.

The manager can show they are really listening by thanking people for speaking up, asking further questions to get more information, asking others who haven't spoken for their views, and altering their original proposal if they learn something that persuades them to change their mind (and explaining why they have changed their minds).

What the manager shouldn't do is immediately respond to any comment or question by explaining why they were right all along, and they shouldn't 'punish' those who disagreed with them in any way.

Harder to do when you are feeling stressed perhaps, but if the manger is micro-managing it is the manager's behaviour that needs to change first.

Michael Roberto said...

I completely agree that one should not try to pretend that he or she does not have an opinion. What you describe as the correct behaviors is right on the money. In academic terms, we would say that you have to show that you are genuinely considering others' views and giving them an opportunity to influence the final decision. If you do so, you create a "fair process" which yields better buy-in and commitment.