There are many reasons why people micromanage. Some are good reasons, some are bad. For example, if I get a root canal treatment, I want a dentist who’s a micromanager and makes sure that all the details are just right. However, in most situations micromanaging is counterproductive.
The most common reason why people micromanage is because they don’t trust that others will do it right. For example, they might delegate a job to someone who either doesn’t have the skill to do it, or doesn’t really understand what’s requested of him.
Also, people who have a very precise picture of what they want can only be sure that they’ll get it if they communicate every specific aspect.
Micromanaging can also stem from a desire to know what’s going on. For example, if you’re running a big project, you know that you’re not just in charge, but you are also responsible. And in order to make the right decisions, you need to have the right information. This can easily make people believe that in order to have the “right” information, one needs to have as much information as possible. But that’s not necessarily the case. Oftentimes, too much information can lead to a situation where you can’t see the forest for the trees. You don’t need to have all the information the floor level team members have. Yes, it is good to be in touch with them, to have a conversation and get to know the problems the face and the ideas they have. But you don’t need to know everything they know.
Another reason why people micromanage is that they often have a track history of success with operational thinking. But when you manage, it’s not so much about doing things yourself, but getting things done – with the help of others. It requires a shift from operational to strategic thinking.
Oftentimes it’s also insecurity – if you are leading a project and you feel you’re not up to the job, you might feel insecure and try to compensate by holding on to details. The thing is: it’s very easy to get lost in details.
To be a good leader, you need to be able to let go of control and you need to learn to delegate tasks to others. It’s a skill to communicate the right way – so that people understand what the desired goal is, yet are also free to use their own creativity and intelligence to find the best way to achieve the desired outcome.
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