Overcoming the Tendency to “Micro-manage”

Micro-management is the failure to delegate when delegation is appropriate.  It is giving an assignment to an employee who has the capability of executing on their own and then overseeing the details of the execution of the assignment.  In many cases, it is driven by a lack of trust in the other person, but even if it is not, it is almost always viewed as such.  The perception of lack of trust increases frustration and reduces both motivation and the desire to show initiative.  In other words, micro-management creates an environment that negatively impacts results.  So how do you overcome the tendency to micro-manage?  The key is trust, and trust grows with successful accomplishment.  There are three steps to developing trust.

  • Fairly evaluate the competencies of the individual.  The tasks that you assign require certain competencies for success.  Start by identifying those competencies and then evaluate your employee’s skill set relative to those competencies.  If a skill is lacking you can provide support through training.  If all the skills are present then you can predict a high probability of success.
  • Make assignments on the basis of competencies.  The more success that you observe and the individual achieves, the more trust you will have in the person and the more confidence the person will have in their ability.  Making assignments on the basis of competencies increases the chances of success.
  • Communicate your expectations and trust to the individual.  When making assignments, make sure that you clearly communicate your expectations by providing information needed for success.  We call these the six-points of a clear message and they include What-When-Where-Who-How-Why.  Don’t over focus on the “How” component with a competent employee because this can communicate lack of confidence in their ability.  Make sure that you give them information that may be specific to the current task that they might not have, such as “When” you need the task accomplished.  When appropriate, communicate that you have every confidence in their ability to complete the task at hand.

Empowering employees to accomplish tasks on their own not only creates a more confident and competent workforce, it also gives you more control over your time and peace of mind.

A Best Boss Shows Trust by Delegating Effectively & Is Fair and Consistent

Since we introduced the Top 20 Characteristics of a 'Best Boss' back in January, we have seen that a 'Best Boss': #1 -- is a good communicator

#2 -- holds himself and others accountable for results

#3 -- enables success

#4 -- motivates others

#5 -- cares about the success of others, and

#6 -- is honest and trustworthy.

Now for the month of July, the newsletter and will dig into:

#7 -- shows trust by delegating effectively and

#8 -- is fair and consistent.

In our May newsletter, we discussed how 'Best Bosses' genuinely care about their employees' long-term career success and that they selflessly demonstrate this care for the success of others with career / performance coaching. To be truly effective, coaching requires honesty and trustworthiness. This theme of trust transitions our discussion nicely because, 'Best Bosses' are not only personally worthy of receiving trust, but they also demonstrate trust - in their employees. One of the primary ways they accomplish this is through effective delegation.

Shows Trust by Delegating Effectively

In the workplace, as we have discussed in previous newsletters, the role of a supervisor is to get results through the efforts of other people. Therefore, by definition, success in this role requires that the supervisor delegate to his employees. We generally define delegation as empowering another person to act on your behalf, but to qualify as not simply delegation, but Effective Delegation, more is required. At the end of the day, it will be difficult to walk away feeling "effective" in your delegation effort if the effort failed to produce the intended results. It is critical, however, that supervisors take a wider horizon view than just the discomfort experienced in the moment. Unintended results don't necessarily constitute failure as a delegator, so long as the conditions for success were reasonably created to begin with. Ask yourself these general questions:

  • Did the delegated task match the competency level of the individual?
  • Was necessary support provided for success (which could simply mean getting out of the way once an assignment has been made)?

To avoid the regret of answering these questions negatively, follow these 6 Basic Steps to Effective Delegation:

  1. Identify tasks that need to be accomplished and the competencies required for success.
  2. Evaluate the competencies of your employees relative to the competencies required to accomplish the task.
  3. Determine who on your team has the requisite skills for success.
  4. Determine if you want to delegate the complete task or only components of the task.
  5. Clearly communicate your expectations to the employee and provide necessary resources for success.
  6. Provide positive feedback following success or redirect performance if success has not been achieved.

Our willingness to delegate a task is determined by two primary factors:

  1. Our evaluation of the person’s competence and
  2. Our trust in their ability to achieve success.

Employees instinctively recognize these factors, so understand that when you delegate you are communicating that you have trust in their ability to produce the agreed upon result. However, just the opposite is communicated when you “delegate” and then “look over their shoulder”.

If you don’t have trust that the person will be successful, then focus on training to allow you to build that trust.

Fair and Consistent

There is a story about the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi. One of his players was asked in an interview about what made Lombardi one of the greatest coaches of all time. The player responded, “He treats us all the same...just like dogs!” There is nothing to say that this is really a true story, but it does relate to fairness and consistency. We certainly don’t recommend treating your employees like dogs, but fairly evaluating performance based on clearly articulated criteria is critical. Coach Lombardi’s players knew that he had their best interest in mind and would do what it took to win, but he also didn’t play favorites. He fairly evaluated the performance of all of his players.

Equally important is the predictability of treatment. Treating all team members consistently, no matter who they are, allows for predictable consequences and thus increases motivation to succeed.

Best Boss Bottom Line

There is a re-occurring theme in our descriptions of each of the last four characteristics used by thousands of employees to describe the best boss they ever had -- Trust. You can feel it when you trust someone and you really feel it when you don't. The most compelling relationship to glean from this look at trust is that trust is reciprocal and re-enforcing. When an employee feels trusted by a boss, they are likely to return the sentiment. Also, if an employee trusts that they will be treated in a fair and consistent way, the 'Best Boss' can trust that the employee will be motivated to give any task their best effort, unencumbered by the fear of unpredictable consequences.

4 Keys to Effective Delegation

As a supervisor, one of the ways that you get your job done, and manage your time more effectively is to delegate to your employees.  Delegating requires trust in their ability to get the results that you expect.  Here are four keys to making sure you delegate effectively.

  1. Identify the competencies required to accomplish the task.  This sounds simple, but how many times do we actually do a task analysis before making an assignment.  We know the result that we want, but many times we don’t take the time to really determine how we want that result achieved.  Understanding what competencies are needed for success is critical before you can do what comes next.
  2. Assess your employees relative to the task competencies.  An honest comparison of employee skills/competencies against task requirements will help you determine whether you can delegate or whether you need to provide additional support to the employee, including training.
  3. Communicate your expectations clearly.  When giving an assignment, there are 6-points that need to be understood by the employee:  What, Who, When, Where, Why and How.  If you are delegating to an employee who has the requisite competencies, then probably all you will need to communicate is “What result you need”.  If this is a special situation then you will need to communicate those aspects of the task that make this special, e.g., when you need it done.  Going over every detail of “How” is certainly not needed if the person is truly competent in this task and doing so would be seen as “micro-managing” due to lack of trust.
  4. Give appropriate feedback once the task is done.  Feedback is obviously dependent on result, but don’t forget to give positive feedback for success (maybe a simple “thank you”).  If failure occurs, then take the time to determine why so that you can make sure that failure doesn’t occur again.

Help!! I'm tired of doing everything myself!

3 Steps to Make Delegating Less Risky Many of us find that we just can’t seem to get done in a day everything that needs to get done.  If we work alone, then this may be primarily a personal time management issue, but if we supervise a team, then it may well be a delegation and training issue.

Sometimes we fail to delegate tasks to our team members because we simply don’t trust them.  We have delegated to someone in the past and they have failed us, so now we are afraid to try it again.  The fact is that, as supervisors, our job is to get results through the efforts of our team members and if we aren’t delegating, we are not doing what we are getting paid to do.

So how do you develop enough trust so that you are willing to take the “risk” of delegating?

1.  Do an Ability Inventory -- The first step is to accurately understand the ability level of each team member with respect to each task for which they have responsibility.  An honest evaluation of ability will give you a starting point.

2.  Delegate with Support -- Once you have this information, then you can determine what and to whom you can give more responsibility.  Make sure that you provide enough support to ensure success without “looking over their shoulder” all the time.

3.  Develop “The Bench” -- Additionally, you need to determine an on-the-job training process to develop the skills needed by each team member so that they can be successful when delegated specific tasks.  This gives you more “bench strength” so that you have more options for delegation.

Balancing delegation and training will really help you manage your time and also help manage the time of your team members.