The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve made a hiring mistake. ~ Jim Collins
Getting stuck in the rut of tightly wound management techniques is easy for leaders to do. When a leader desires a specific outcome or things begin to go awry, emotions quickly take over. Fear of failure, limited confidence in oneself or the team, and overly high expectations can manifest in over-prescribing recommendations versus unleashing the talent in your department. You might aim to hire very creative people, but if you squelch their input, you also significantly diminish their output.
The fact is that all of us can fall into the routines of a micromanager. The minute something seems to go wrong, take too long, or seems far too gone, it’s easy to want to step-in and take over. We allow our emotions to govern our actions. Rather than being guided by sound leadership practices, we manage too tightly and our actions work in the short-term by simply accomplishing a task rather than keeping sight of the bigger vision. The problem is that these low level leadership responses will always crush creativity. Anytime you find yourself micromanaging people, or even taking on the work of a teammate (or subordinate), you’re replacing any of their ideas with your own. Doing so will only erode trust, a social construct between two people that can take years to build but minutes to break.
The only antidote to over-prescribing your directions, orders, and opinions is to create teams where collaboration is expected and the vision is clear. In fact, when teams are empowered through an acceptance of diverse thinking and psychological safety, they do more and faster.
Challenge Yourself–TPA: A Framework for Growth Through Reflection
Think: Are our projects assigned to teams or individuals? Are our teams diverse and inclusive so that we capitalize on new and creative perspectives? Are people free to express their opinions in a safe environment? As the leader, do I manage the people or the teams too closely?
Be a visionary, not a contributor.
Plan: List the current teams (or individuals) who are assigned to your various initiatives. Plan to add new people or new structures to the project management phase of the work so that you gain maximum creativity from the group. Then step away and appoint only one person to report back the findings and solutions to you.
Too much of your feedback to too many people creates confusion.
Act: Ask for feedback. The more you ask for feedback, the better people will get at giving it to you. Start with a trusted colleague and be direct. Don’t just ask for their reaction to your leadership. Use sentence stems, like “Where do you see me micromanaging?” Or “Where do we have limited creative output?”
Give space and time for a response. Act now.
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