No one benefits when a leader turns into a micromanager (although I prefer the term overmanager). It creates strife for leaders, employees and entire organizations.
A short and sweet definition of micromanagement/overmanagement is a leader/supervisor who gives excessive direction to employees. Another crucial point is overmanaging is not mentoring. The latter increases the skill set and self-reliance of employees, and the former creates paralysis.
- Starting a new position, she lacks trust in team members
- Intense pressure to reach goals
- Insecure in her leadership skills
- Believes no one else can do the work as well as she
- Fears being blamed for the mistakes of others
In practice, the overmanager physically or virtually hovers over her employees as they work on projects. She dictates instead of mentors, finds fault rather than encourages, and assigns blame in place of learning. Other hallmarks of overmanagers include poor delegation skills, requires she makes all “significant” decisions (usually a moving target) and makes criticism personal.
Leaders and organizations are hurt by overmanagement because it damages productivity, creativity, trust, communication and engagement. Even from a selfish perspective, leaders should recognize overmanaging has no positive value. Being a helicopter leader chews up a lot of time, creates additional work for yourself, adds stress to your day and shifts energy away from other pressing projects.
Overmanaging can be a hard habit to break. For many leaders it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As employees learn to fear punishment for making “wrong” decisions, they will stop making decisions. When this happens, the overmanager’s belief that no one else is good or smart or skilled enough to complete a project is reinforced. Many replace “problem” team members only to start the same process with new employees.
A Better Way
Experience has taught me that when I fully communicate expectations and goals, as well as provide the required resources, and check in on a scheduled basis to monitor progress, the completed project exceeds expectations 100 percent of the time.
In addition, there is usually more than a single “right” way to approach a project. My team members often have deeper insights than me, thank goodness, so why move forward with “my” solution instead of a better solution?
How To Work With An Overmanager
For those struggling with a overmanager, here are five tips that may make your life easier.
Thank. This is not always easy, but thank your leader for his interest and guidance.
Listen. When being corrected or criticized, do not become defensive. Listen to learn what your leader expects – not to respond. Seek patterns in his comments that create a greater understanding of his thought process.
Explain. After you begin to understand your leader’s thought process, explain yours and emphasize similarities.
Share. Sometimes creating or increasing check-in meetings to review progress can relax the overmanager.
Look. Does your leader overmanage others? If so, recognize you are not the trigger for his overmanaging behaviors.
Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting LLC, and specializes in business, leadership and life coaching and Marcom consulting.