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Leadership: Stop Micromanaging & Trust Your Employees

Leadership: Stop Micromanaging & Trust Your Employees

Attention all hovercraft supervisors -- are you smothering your employees with unnecessary guidance? Does forward progress come to a dead micromanage, leader, leadershiphalt when you travel because your employees hesitate to make final decisions in your absence? Have you overheard employees muttering "micromanager" when you pass them in the hallways?

If so, consider four facts.

First, your hard work can't make up for your employees' underperformance if you supervise two or more employees. Studies estimate the average employee works at 50 to 60 percent productivity, the equivalent of 20 to 24 hours weekly of real work.

If a supervisor of two under-performing employees works 65 hours a week to "make up for" what her employees don't accomplish, the trio's productivity totals 105 to 113 hours. If each of the three put forth 40 hours of real effort, the trio could achieve 120 hours of productivity even if the supervisor scaled back to a 40-hour week.

Second, your employees control the amount of effort they put into their work. Ask yourself how long you would put forth extra effort if your supervisor overly monitored your daily decisions.

Third, micromanagement stifles employee decision-making and gives employees the sense their manager doesn't trust them. Consider what results -- employees can't act in the supervisor's absence, placing all decision-making on the "when the supervisor can get to it" platter and bottlenecking forward progress.

Further, talented employees quit, because few employees willingly work for a supervisor who doesn't trust them.

Fourth, micromanagers cost organizations money as higher-paid supervisors expend effort on decisions and tasks that lower-paid employees could handle.

If you want to eliminate micromanagement, address its twin causes.

Some managers develop a micromanagement habit in response to employees lacking accountability. This once-burned, twice-shy cause results in the manager treating all employees as if they need regular monitoring to perform effectively.

In the short-term micromanagement prevents the problems that result from work poorly done. In the long-run, micromanagement takes away the psychological paycheck employees gain when allowed to work independently, damaging morale and ultimately reducing productivity. Micromanagement further backfires as employees respond to the hovering by saying "if you want all the responsibility, take it" and working with decreasing ownership.

If you micromanage out of habit or due to past employee problems, give your current employees a chance to show you they deserve better. Assign them projects with deadlines and then back off and let them achieve. When they do so, give them increasing amounts of responsibility and autonomy. They've earned it. If they fail, deal with the problem employees without punishing the others.

Other managers become addicted to micromanagement because they enjoy the kick that comes from achievement. Regrettably, these micromanagers often burn out while their employees rust out.

The cure? Recognize that real achievement comes from marshaling the efforts of the entire team. Supervisors who act to ensure the team's success leveraging every member's talent realize a true productivity dividend.

Test this by assigning every one of your employees a complete task. To ensure success, give your employees deadlines and the parameters within which you want them to work. For example, if you ask an employee to create a client newsletter, explain that you want the newsletter readable, interesting and no more than three pages in length. Let the employee know potential sources from which you want her to draw articles and give her some samples of newsletters you think hit the mark. If she produces a mediocre draft, give her additional guidance without taking the project back. If your employee provides you an exciting draft, compliment her. You're done and your employee's talent has extended your team's productivity. In the long run you may realize you like directing others' work even more than handling the projects yourself.

Does the micromanager label fit you? Ask yourself what hovering costs you, your employees and your organization. If you don't want to pay the price, give your employees a chance to show you what they can do when you let them.



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Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR and owner of the Alaska-based management consulting firm, The Growth Company Inc. consults with companies and individuals to create real solutions to real workplace challenges. Their services include HR On-call (a-la-carte HR), investigations, mediation, management/employee training, executive coaching, 360/employee reviews and organizational strategy services. You can reach Lynne @, via her workplace 911/411 blog, or @lynnecurry10 on twitter.

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