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How to Be a Perfect Micromanager

April 28, 2011

Micromanagement has its pluses. Just think, you’re assured that your direct reports produce results (you hope) exactly like you want them to. And if you’re the nervous type, your anxiety level lowers each time you give more instructions.

Unfortunately, there are a few minuses. “Unappreciative” employees complain that they’re not trusted or valued enough to work on their owm. Most of us hope we’re hired because of our capabilities and there is nothing like having someone breathing over our shoulders calling every move.

Well if you have the following symptoms, you might just be a micromanager:

  • Like to know what employees are doing hourly
  • Constantly giving “great” advice on the task you just delegated
  • Make regular calls to employees asking “How you coming on the project” even though you gave the assignment that morning.
  • Get sweaty palms and a deep dread welling up from within when you do delegate tasks to direct reports.
  • Not willing to give up your close management style because, by golly, it works

I can’t blame you. Don’t give up your micromanagement just do it even better and here’s how.

  1. Spell it out. When you delegate a task, tell your direct reports exactly how you know they will be successful. I don’t mean telling them to do a good job, I mean knock down, drag out measurement that assures you both that the finish line has been crossed. Remember that success criteria isn’t like art, “I know it when I see it”. If you can’t measure it, you haven’t figured out how you know your employee will be successful.
  2. Set a deadline preferably in Grenich Mean Time so you don’t have any misunderstandings on the date, time and place for the balance due. “Your report is due at 11:00 A.M. Grenich Mean Time to my secretary on August 28, 20__.” Well, you get the idea. Just kidding about the Grenich Mean Time but a time zone does help. Put it in writing and put it on YOUR calendar for follow up.
  3. What happens if your deadline is missed? My manager at IBM would check his daily calendar and if a report was due at 4PM, you could just about set your watch at 4:01 because you would get a call. If you did miss, he would write a note: “one missed report on mm/dd/yy” and somehow that miss would appear on performance appraisals, which affected how much money people made. Funny how that motivated folks.
  4. Explain why the task is important to you (besides wanting it done and not wanting to do it yourself), to the employee, and to your company. You can mention your dog if that helps. Folks love to know what’s in it for them and why what they do is important.
  5. Sometimes, you have a lot of worries about handing off a task hoping it gets done by the deadline. I mean, that’s why we micromanage in the first place – we worry whether it will get done. So… set several milestones that have deadlines and success criteria just like the deadline for the entire task. Just don’t get carried away with a milestone every hour otherwise you’re right back where you started.
  6. We sometimes get frustrated and that’s part of being human. Remember this and you’ll be fine: we are in our management jobs to make everyone successful. A good friend used to ask executives this great question, “How much of your salary is set aside to let your employees fail?” Stops ‘em dead in their tracks every time.

Perfect micromanagement: It all works like magic!