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10 Signs Your Managers Are Controllers But Not Leaders

10 Signs Your Managers Are Controllers But Not Leaders

Whether you are the CEO or the most junior person in the organization, we all have managers who exert power over us. A controlling boss makes you dread going into the office. On the other hand, working for a leader is often inspiring (and challenging). Here are 10 clues that managers may be controllers in an unhealthy way instead of leaders.

1. They Use Fear To Achieve Their Goals

A controlling boss or manager tends to use their role power (i.e. the power to fire or discipline employees) to achieve their goals. While power matters, effective leaders understand that it is a tool to be use sparingly. Instead, modern leaders influence their staff and persuade them.

Tip: Learn how to leaders master the tools of influence by reading 6 Ways To Influence Others.

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2. They Think They Know Everything

A controlling boss often or always assumes that they know everything. They never ask for opinions from their staff and they do not believe in doing research before making important decisions. In contrast, leaders understand how to be humble at work. For example, a leader may realize that she has a weakness in accounting knowledge or software development. As a result, a leader will seek the advice and recommendations of others in those areas.

3. They Treat People As Pawns

The boss who is fixated on control soon starts to view their staff as pawns. If your manager simply views you as a “pair of hands” to get work done, you are probably working for a controlling manager. Leaders take a different approach. They realize the value in drawing on the full creative powers of people around them. Leaders recognize that treating staff as valuable contributors is a key way to win their respect and improve productivity.

4. They Dominate Meetings

Meetings are an important tool for getting work done in modern organizations. Unfortunately, some managers never learned effective meeting skills. Instead, they simply yell to make a point and issue orders to staff. In contrast, a true leader understand that meetings are concerned with drawing on the wisdom and experience of everyone attending the meeting.

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Tip: Learn the 7 habits of highly effective meetings to become more effective in meetings, even if you have a controlling manager.

5. They Take A “My Way Or The Highway” Approach To Conflict

Conflict is a reality that we deal with in our daily work. Unfortunately, a controlling manager assumes that aggression is only sure path to resolving conflict. This kind of boss views every disagreement as a conflict to be won by them, no matter the cost. In cost, modern leaders use a variety of conflict resolution techniques such as collaborating to find better solutions.

6. They Ignore The Competition

A controlling manager has a hard time with competing companies. At the worst, a controlling manager will resort to immoral efforts to undermine the competition. Other controlling bosses take pride in ignoring the competition. Successful leaders maintain focus on their goals while monitoring the competition. Leaders know that observing competitors gives them new ideas including joint ventures and other forms of cooperation.

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7. They Never Practice Active Listening

Arrogance is one of the hallmarks of a controlling manager and this means they have a lot of room to go when it comes to listening. There’s nothing worse than suggesting ideas and improvements to your boss only to have those ideas ignored. Leaders understand than listening is a skill that requires practice and study. Fortunately, everyone can become better at listening. Use these resources to improve your listening skills:

5 Ways for Leaders To Listen Harder by Michael Hyatt

Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

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8. They Focus on The Short Term

The controlling manager is often concerned with the short term. They have little interest in anything beyond this week. Their need for control undermines their ability to plan and think about the long term needs of their department and the organization. Leaders take a completely different perspective. They start with long term goals first and then they ask their staff to help them achieve their goals. The long term perspective means a greater interest in new ideas and less interest in micro-managing the details.

9. They Never Inspire People With Their Own Example

Managers driven by the need to control rarely look for ways to lead by example. In contrast, let’s consider the inspiring example of Winston Churchill. During the First World War, he had a senior leadership role in the British government. When he was forced out of office, he decided to return to the field. He actually went to the front line and led soldiers in battle. His willingness to lead by example in war and expose himself to danger shows one way to inspire people by your example.

Tip: Read about Winston Churchill’s approach to life: The Churchill School of Adulthood – Lesson #7: Work Like a Slave; Command Like a King; Create Like a God.

10. They Are Unable To Work Through A Crisis

A boss who focuses on control is rarely able to work through a crisis. They have little ability to manage the unexpected in life. In fact, some controlling managers simply freeze in a crisis. It’s a sad state of affairs that hurts them and the rest of the organization. Leaders, on the other hand, know that life is full of unpredictable challenges and situations (10 Challenges Leaders Always Face And How To Deal With Them). They stay focused on taking care of their people and coming up with solutions. All in all, working with a leader gives you a greater sense of confidence.

Featured photo credit: Hand Thumb / Geralt via pixabay.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

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