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8 Signs of a Micro Manager (And How Not to Become One)

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8 Signs of a Micro Manager (And How Not to Become One)

Not all managers who micromanage are intentionally bad. I think it’s also worth noting that not all micromanagers want to be that way. Like you and I, micromanagers usually have the best intentions—to succeed or finish a project well—but their management style often drives people crazy and causes them high stress levels.

There are mainly two types of management styles: hands-off and hands-on.

In the simplest words, hands-off managers give their employees autonomy, while hands-on managers involve themselves in the daily tasks and activities of their people.

Excellent hands-on managers significantly change their team’s lives and careers through the inspiration, motivation, and constant and meaningful feedback they impart.

This isn’t always the case, though. Even the best hands-on managers are prone to falling into the micromanagement trap.

Merriam-Webster defines micromanagement as the act of managing with excessive control or attention to details. When you micromanage, you observe the work of your employees closely without letting the smallest of details pass.

Micromanaging is one of the most harmful and unhealthy habits a manager can have. It’s a barrier to scaling. If you genuinely want your business and your team to grow, you must teach your people to handle responsibilities and take control.

How do you know if you’re a micromanager? Let’s look at these eight micromanagement signs along with steps on how to turn that around.

What are the signs of a micromanager? You’ll know you’re one if these signs describe your management style:

1. You Want to Be CC’d on Everything.

Your inbox is full of cc’d conversations about even the most minor details.

Asking to be copied on emails may seem harmless to you, but it tells your employees that you’re looking over their shoulders. Monitoring their every move may hurt the team’s workflow—and studies prove this.

“Choking Under Pressure: Multiple Routes to Skill Failure” published in the American Journal of Experimental Psychology shows that employees who believe they are being watched tend to perform at a lower level.[1]

What do you get when you watch over everything?

Insecurity and inaction in your employees. An overwhelming volume of emails in your inbox.

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Turn it around:

If you’re after maintaining a high quality of email exchanges, teach your team email etiquette. Eventually, trust them to handle their email threads on their own.

For emails where your feedback or approval is not directly or urgently needed, tell your employees that you no longer need to be copied in them. (Again, trust them to handle their email threads on their own!)

2. You’re Afraid of Losing Control.

Taking #1 further, you constantly feel the urge to check in on your employees’ progress and what they’re doing.

You want everything done your way, you always have standards set before anyone can say a word, or you always have exact and step-by-step instructions.

As a manager, it is reasonable to monitor your team’s progress and make sure everything is going well, especially after you’ve delegated a task. However, you should remember that everything has its limits.

Micromanagement stifles your team’s creativity, communication, and self-development.

Turn it around:

There are smarter ways to check up on a task’s progress without micromanaging:

  • Request for weekly or monthly reports of accomplishments, development, and challenges met.
  • Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs),[2] which you can use to evaluate your team’s success at achieving key business objectives and reaching targets.
  • Implement Objectives and Key Results (OKRs),[3] which is a simple goal system used by Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other big-name companies to help everyone on the team see progress towards common goals.

3. You Do Work That Isn’t Yours.

When you think everyone in your team is an underperformer, there’s a big chance you’re a micromanager.

Micromanagers usually follow the 120% rule: unless a person is better than they are at a task—120% better—then that’s the only time they can ever delegate that task.

That could mean NOTHING ever really gets delegated. They often think: “Why should I delegate this task if I’m going to do it better?”

The result: good employees stop taking the initiative or just leave altogether.

Turn it around:

It comes down to a trust issue. You don’t delegate because you don’t trust your team to finish the work and finish it well.

As a first step, start delegating smaller tasks. Depending on their performance and outputs, level up their responsibility so they can grow with you.

Replace the 120% rule with the 70% rule—if someone can do a job 70% as good as you can, delegate it to them. Assist them throughout the task and give them all the information they need, but let them take control. In this way, you get 70% of the output using almost none of your time.

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You have to trust that your employees will complete the work you have assigned them. Show them that you have confidence in their skills and ability to do the job.

Remember this: delegating benefits both you and your team.

When you delegate tasks, you allow your team to grow and improve. When you delegate tasks, you give yourself more time to focus on your most vital business activities.

You can learn more about how to delegate here: How to Delegate Work Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide)

4. You Discourage Independent Decision-Making.

You don’t like it when an employee decides without your input or opinion—even if that decision was within the employee’s level of expertise.

Other micromanagers go as far as wanting to solve every problem themselves!

When you discourage your people from deciding on their own, you deter people from taking responsibility, and you limit their capacity to grow. You undermine your employees’ trust in their own judgement.

While it is crucial to ensure that decisions—especially significant and critical ones—are made well, you have to give your people the autonomy they deserve.

Turn it around:

Take a few steps back and let them find their way. It can be hard to do at first, but it makes sense: if a person was hired to do a specific job, you should let them shine in that area. What you can do is to make yourself approachable for when they have questions and trust that they will come to you when they need your guidance.

If you think they can solve a problem without your help, send them away and motivate them to find their way.

5. You Talk the Most at Every Meeting.

You have these three habits when in meetings:

  • You often call a meeting to read a long list of tasks, announcements, and decisions (no objections or questions entertained!).
  • You often call (or attend) meetings to make sure you get their points across (even if your presence isn’t required).
  • You require all employees to attend meetings, whether the topic is relevant to them or not.

What isn’t healthy with this habit is that, in the long run, this will waste precious time, bring about confusion, diminish the team’s efficiency, and ultimately, make the people feel as if their inputs aren’t valued.

Turn it around:

Don’t keep the mic to yourself. Let your employees speak up.

It would be helpful to conceptualize new meeting procedures that encourage your employees to join the discussion. Have your employees do their status reports where they will give updates as to their progress on various projects.

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And as a reminder, the Cambridge dictionary defines the word “meeting” as “a planned occasion when people come together to discuss something”.

Don’t do all the talking; value your employees’ contributions and get them involved in the meeting.

6. You Dictate Everything.

When you LOVE to give exact directions on how to complete a task, you might be a micromanager.

Micromanagers give detailed and step-by-step instructions for all tasks, even for the simplest ones.

It is natural for leaders to give sufficient directions to make sure that the job gets done right. However, detailing every single step hinders your employees from experimenting or getting creative with how they accomplish their tasks. The last thing you’d want to have on your team are robots who don’t think on their own and wait for your instructions.

Here’s what’s worse: these employees are bound to feel less engaged with their work as time goes on. According to Gallup, disengaged employees cost US companies somewhere between $450 billion and $550 every single year.[4]

Turn it around:

Always give the “what”, not the “how”.

Sharing expectations about a deliverable is far different from dictating how to get that result.

Be clear on what the desired outcome looks like. Share with your people your vision, and then ask them about how to get there. As they figure out their strategy and manage their tasks, provide the resources, information, and support that they need to accomplish that vision. Most importantly, give credit where it is due.

As your employees explore, they could make small mistakes now and then. And that’s okay. You will eventually realize that these small losses are shaping up and preparing your team to handle bigger responsibilities and tackle bigger goals.

7. You Expect Regular Reports.

Another habit of micromanagers is that they follow up on their team’s tasks and progress now and then.

They are busy with monitoring the progress of each employee and course-correcting them. These employees, on the other hand, have to constantly create progress reports or email updates to explain their every move and decision.

Asking for constant—and often needless—progress reports can cause significant damage to your team’s motivation and morale:

  • Your employees will feel like someone’s always watching their work, ready to criticize their every move.
  • You discourage independent work and decision-making as you scrutinize everything and pinpoint every mistake.
  • You damage your employees’ trust in you and the higher-ups.
  • You make yourself and your team prioritize the wrong things.
  • You put yourself and your team at risk of burnout.

Turn it around:

Give your employees the autonomy they need.

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Ask your team’s input on the most effective ways for everyone to monitor each other’s progress without you being over-controlling. Outline this new approach and stick to it — set boundaries as to when your employees should bring you in on a project.

Remember, employees who enjoy autonomy in their job produce better work and express greater satisfaction. Consequently, they become more driven and more engaged in their roles.

8. Your Team Has a Consistently High Turnover.

If you have noticed a disturbing trend of people leaving after less than two years of work, it may be high time to review your management style. While the issue could be with them, there’s also a possibility that it’s because of how you manage them.

Aside from great pay and benefits, employees want to work at a place where they can grow and where they feel that their ideas are valued.

Before your employees get annoyed or disempowered by your micromanagement, you have to take action—take care of your employees and let go of the reins.

Turn it around:

Ask yourself: are you offering support or judgement?

It’s easy to be so caught up in the details, the standards, the day-to-day activities, and the processes, but do you take time to invest in your people?

As I have said earlier, not all micromanagers are necessarily “evil”. Sometimes, micromanagers manage the way they do because they have a genuine investment in the team’s success.

It’s just that they have to use their time and effort to lead the people instead of managing and being overbearing.

It’s Never Too Late to Change!

The good news is that it’s never too late to change. Work on reviewing your management style, ask genuine feedback from your staff and take action to implement the necessary changes.

It’s not going to be an overnight transition, but what’s important is that you start and take one step at a time.

Here’s a Steve Jobs quote that’s a great reminder for us all, micromanagers or not:

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

More About Leadership

Featured photo credit: Thomas Drouault via unsplash.com

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Reference

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Nick Hargreaves

Nick is a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience.

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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Are You Addicted to Productivity?

“It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

“Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

“The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

This is my mantra:

I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

Addiction to Productivity is Real

Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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“A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

“It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

“A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

“There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

“For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

  • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
  • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
  • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
  • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
  • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
  • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
  • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

1. Set Limits

Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

2. Create a Not-to-Do List

Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

3. Be Vulnerable

By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

5. Don’t Be a Copycat

Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

6. Say Yes to Less

Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

“In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

“That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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  • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
  • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
  • Establish realistic goals.
  • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
  • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
  • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

8. Simplify

Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

9. Learn How to Relax

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

“But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

“And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

  • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
  • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
  • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
  • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
  • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
  • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
  • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
  • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
  • Visit a massage therapist.
  • Just breathe.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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