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Published on November 26, 2019

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

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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Nick Hargreaves

Nick is the CEO of Cloud Employee and a serial entrepreneur.

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

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

Want to know the good news?

No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

1. Develop a Positive Mindset

If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

Absolutely!

But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

“I’m not smart enough to…”

“I don’t have enough experience to…”

“I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

  • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
  • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
  • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

But this isn’t true!

If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

Ditch the Dwelling

Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

Easier said than done, right? Try these:

  1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
  2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
  3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
  4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

Be Patient about the Process

No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

2. Connect with Your Purpose

One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

“Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

Find Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

3. Find Strength in Unity

The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

Recruit Some Cheerleaders

If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

Form an Accountability Group

Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

  • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
  • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
  • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
  • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
  • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
  • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

Tying it All Together

Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

But here’s the bottom line:

A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

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Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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