What is your role as a manager?
Is it to get the most out of your team?
If that is the case, shouldn’t you offer as much assistance as possible, and help your team do their work to make sure it is not full of errors which would be found later on?
That is the curse of micromanagement, where managers think they are helping by constantly being involved in what their team produces.
However, this actually has the opposite impact. Studies have consistently shown that overly involved managers are a key source of frustration for employees, and result in staff feeling disengaged from their work.
After all, if a manager is constantly asking to be part of every review or decision, it can make the team member feel less trusted.
Research has also shown that people perform worse when they know their work is being observed.
Not only that, but many leaders who want to be heavily involved in all aspects of work, and all decisions that need to be made, will quickly feel overwhelmed as the team size and workload grows.
I have experienced this first-hand, working with founders who started very successful companies, but struggled to let go of tasks they were previously involved in, or delegate effectively, especially when teams grew from one (where the founder was doing everything themselves), to 5 (where you can easily be aware of everything that is going on), to 20 (where separate teams are required) to more than 50 (where it is impossible to keep track of what any individual is working on, especially if your task is to manage and lead the whole company).
Give your people the authority to do their best work
If you want your teams and employees to bring their best work, you need to give them the authority to actually do the work.
In some cases, this might mean removing structural processes which tell teams exactly how things need to be done, and instead empower them to do things in the way they agree will benefit the company the most.
Not micromanaging does however not mean that you as a leader should sit back and help the teams.
Team members should know that you are willing to help, and there be a culture of psychological safety where they feel comfortable asking for it.
This help could involve guiding them through a particular challenge, or clearing their path by helping them to address obstacles.
Teams seem to perform better and prefer a support style which allows them to discuss and ask for help when problems occur, rather than trying to discuss and prevent all possible problems before work starts. This is when teams value the help you offer more.
If you can communicate to your team that you are there to be an advisor, and not just an evaluator, they will be more likely to accept and ask for help when they need it.
So how can you as a leader support your team, without giving them the feeling that they are being micromanaged?
- Set clear expectations (so that you both agree on what outcomes you are looking for and what success looks like)
- Agree the review process (including frequency and methods)
- Offer assistance when someone is challenged, and ready to accept help
- And then, let go and let them work with a sense of efficacy and independence
People who feel empowered to do their best work are also the ones more likely to do just that.