By now, the vast majority of you should have read once—or a hundred times—that micromanaging your team is detrimental to their motivation, productivity, problem-solving skills, growth, their trust in you, among many other reasons. It’s also a major contributor to burnout (for both of you) and turnover.
What isn’t often mentioned is that the time you take to micromanage your team is time lost to seeing the big picture, and the energy spent in doing so degrades your intuition.
This isn’t some woo-woo thing, intuition is innate in all of us to some degree. Call it “gut feeling” if that helps, but either way we all possess the ability to get that ‘off feeling’ about a person, situation or project. And when we are buried in the tiny details of the work of our team, it detracts from that.
Big picture thinking and intuition go hand in hand, and when both are functioning well, you are able to be an effective manager. When micromanaging, your effectiveness degrades, and so does your team’s.
When you do your team’s work for them, rather than guiding them and allowing them to grow, no one wins. The overall capability of your team remains weak… (Harvard Business Review)
Micromanaging vs Attention to Detail
Micromanaging and having attention to detail are related concepts, but they differ significantly in terms of their approach, purpose, and impact on a team or project.
Micromanaging is an overbearing and excessively controlling management style where a manager closely supervises and controls every aspect of their team’s work. It involves a high level of involvement in even the smallest details of tasks.
Attention to detail is a positive quality that involves a careful and thorough examination of tasks, processes, and projects. It focuses on ensuring that work is accurate and free from errors or oversights. A manager with a strong attention to detail can still trust their team, but takes a vigilant approach to quality control.
Big Picture Thinking as a Manager
Seeing the big picture as a manager means having the ability to view the organization, its goals, and its challenges from a broader and more strategic perspective. It involves understanding how various components of the business interconnect, how cross-functional teams work best together, identifying long-term objectives, and recognizing the impact of decisions on the overall success of the organization.
This isn’t just seeing a quarter or three down the road, but knowing how the other aspects and goals of the business dovetail with yours in a cohesive manner. Like driving on the highway, you look out in front of you, as well as to the sides and behind you. (An individual contributor is only looking out in front of them, generally and relatively speaking.)
When you lose big picture thinking, you lose the ability to see how your component fits in with the other components of the organization. This can cause misalignment for your work within the organization.
Your Intuition as a Manager
Having great intuition as a manager means possessing a keen and insightful understanding of situations, people, and issues that go beyond the information presented on the surface. It involves the ability to make quick, effective decisions and judgments, often based on a combination of experience, pattern recognition, and emotional intelligence.
Or, to put it another way: This is about being able to see around corners, and through projects to the sticking points before they happen. Your intuition comes not only from years of experience, but also from having the headspace to see it.
When you lose intuition, you lost your connection to your past experience and your ability to apply it to the work being done. You may end up having increased rework, missing deadlines, and or not aligning with the broader organization.
How Micromanaging Is Detrimental to Your Effectiveness as a Manager
Effective leadership involves trust, delegation, and empowerment. This enables your team members to take ownership of their work and contribute to the organization’s success. Each one of those effective traits gives a manager more time and space to see the bigger picture through connecting with other managers on cross-functional teams.
If you aren’t already doing this, you should be scheduling one-on-ones with the managers you will be interacting with most in the upcoming 2–3 quarters. This will give you insight into the bigger picture. If you are busy in the minutiae of your team’s work, there will be not only be little to no time left to talk with other managers, but little headspace to read between the lines of what they are saying.
Trust, delegation, empowerment, enabling team members… these all give you that space you need to use your intuition. The top contributors to diminishing your intuition are:
- stress and anxiety
- information overload
- lack of mindfulness
And much of this comes from leaving the level of manager and spending too much time down in the level of an individual contributor.
How to Recognize and Recover from Micromanaging
Recognizing that you may be micromanaging is an essential step toward fostering a healthier and more productive work environment. Here are some tips to help you recognize signs of micromanagement in your leadership style, and course correct:
- Are you constantly monitoring every task and demanding frequent updates from your team? Trusting your team involves giving them the space to work without constant surveillance. Do you need to sign every report, or can you train a senior direct report of yours to take on 90% of them?
- Do you notice a lack of enthusiasm or disengagement among multiple team members? Micromanaged employees may feel demotivated, undervalued, and disempowered. Ask for feedback on your managing style, and ways to improve. Emphasis on the latter so as to show that you are looking to grow in ways that help you show up for your team.
- Micromanagers may tightly control communication channels, insisting that all communication goes through them. This can stifle open and direct communication among team members, and learning. Be in the kick-off call, but openly express that you are looking to be included in less meetings moving forward, and be kept informed of decisions. Not asked, but informed—a big difference.
These are but a few of the signs of micromanaging. Recognizing these signs and being open to feedback is the first step toward developing a more empowering and trusting leadership approach. Micromanagement can have detrimental effects on team morale, creativity, and productivity, so it’s crucial to find a balance that allows for autonomy and growth.
Get a Coach
One of the best ways to grow as a leader and manager is to hire a coach. If you haven’t yet used a really good personal, career or leadership coach before, you are in for a literal awakening. It’s transformative, life-changing even. Your team and those around you will notice a stratospheric shift in you.