Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
— Jack Welch
- How well do you know those who work with you?
- What do they bring to the ‘table’?
- Have you asked?
Surprise! You can’t do everything. Everyone needs help to get all the myriad things we do every day accomplished. Was I ever a micromanager who tried to do everything by myself? Yes.
I really don’t like the term micromanager, especially when it’s attached to my name, but it’s true. I don’t think I went so far as to do the work of others for them, but I did fall into the category of two different philosophies:
- If you want it done right, do it yourself
- I can’t ask someone to help me do this because:
- I can’t explain clearly how I want it done
- It’s too nasty a job to ask someone else to do for me
- I look weak and helpless if I can’t do it myself.
There are some lessons to be learned in dealing with micromanaging. There are two lessons I can share.
Lesson #1…Came when I was at a new job trying to figure out the company’s budget reports. I could read the one from my previous position, but this one looked different and had different labels for each line item. When the monthly budget sheets arrived confusion reigned. At first I struggled along in order to avoid letting my boss know my weakness. That tactic didn’t last long when I couldn’t answer the questions she asked. I was embarrassed, humiliated and felt really stupid.
There was a new person in the accounting department. As a new hire she was feeling her way through who was in charge of what. She was an expert at budgets. I understood the organizational structure. She was new to the organization and had been feeling isolated and not able to put her gifts and talents to their best use. We spent a good hour at her desk while she explained everything to me in a way I could understand.
Then I was able to help her through an organizational chart, which helped her understand the complicated web of leadership structure in our organization. We both left the meeting with our needs met. I had a better understanding of reading budgets and she felt valued and of great support to me. We were best buds throughout our tenure in the organization.
What a revelation. The help needed was available. She felt needed and appreciated because I had asked for help.
Lesson #2…..is all about our individual levels of importance. When our organization celebrated its 50th anniversary there was a grand dinner to honor some folks who’d been around for a long time. My “a-ha” moment came when I realized none of the founders were present, only a few of their children. Only ONE of the more than three hundred employees in the room had been there at the beginning, when the organization was founded. After fifty years most of the original founders and employees had either died or retired. Many of the ones in the room were at least the second tier of employees in their jobs; I was probably about the fourth in a series in my particular role. I began to realize I would not be present at the 100-year celebration. My role was temporary. This gave me a new perspective on my ‘importance’ to the organization.
Do you remember the phrase that’s been passed around for so many years? “You are the dash between two dates (birth and death). What you do in the ‘dash’ is what counts.” I was living my ‘dash’ and it was only a part of the history of this organization. I’d been born, gone to school, worked other places and would work at other places before I finally passed through this life and on to the next.
You ask – how did this make a difference in leaving behind the mindset of a micromanager? It was huge. There came a realization all those people in the room had lots of help getting to where they were. In addition, it was my job to help others play their part, to do what they were supposed to do with their ‘dash’.
So I started to pay more attention to conversations with colleagues and those who reported to me. I started learning about their triumphs and their challenges. I learned what they could do well and what they preferred to do. Then I reminded myself of my friend in accounting and how good it made her feel to help me. I started asking people to play a part in what we were doing in our department.
Not only was this freeing for me; it was wonderful for those around me. I’d begun to feel overwhelmed with all the activities to do. I literally couldn’t do it all; no one human could have. And what about my colleagues and direct reports? They actually began to feel like they were part of the process and had influence on the outcomes. The feeling of inclusion is very powerful.
There are lots of ways to get a job done, just as many different ways as there are people. What matters most is that appropriate people are included and involved; the outcome is a positive one where everyone feels good about the results accomplished.
I know, you are probably thinking “but the journey is the most important thing”! Yes, it is. And guess what, my journey, and the journey of others, was much more enriched by involving them. We learned from each other. Being a lifelong learner I found this was a new ‘school’ I hadn’t realized existed, one where we each taught each other. It made all our journeys more rich and full.
So how can you identify if you are a micromanager and how can you learn to utilize the talents and skills of those around you? I’m a firm believer in lists, so let’s make one: (samples filled in to help you get started)
My micromanaging behaviors What I can do to minimize this behavior
Trying to do everything myself—Learn to delegate to those who have the skills needed appropriate to the task
Feeling I’ll be ‘exposed’ as incompetent if I can’t do this myself—Get over it! No one can do everything. It’s a gift to be a constant learner. Find someone who can teach you how to do the task while you are also letting them do it for you. Praise them for a job well done.
Now make a list of your own with micromanaging behaviors you want to improve!
“To coach” comes from the root meaning “to bring a person from where they are to where they want to be.”
— David Cottrell