If Everything’s Under Control, You’re Going Too Slow

Mario Andretti, retired world champion racing driver, said: “If everything’s under control, you’re going too slow.” In other words, there has to be flexibility in work in order to achieve maximum productivity. When there is little or no flexibility in work, there is a good chance that the work is being micromanaged. In the workplace, this quashes much more than productivity.

Micromanaging is the wrong way to work. It slows down everything and everyone. Checking, re-checking, and checking again is a sign that you have little confidence in either the work systems or processes or both. And if you are a leader with micromanagement tendencies, that’s much worse. Micromanaging leaders (typically Type A personalities) have the best intentions for the organization, but what they’re actually doing is tearing down the organization, one person at a time.

Micromanaging leaders create organizations with the following characteristics:

  • Weak, dysfunctional teams
  • Staff that are unable to make decisions
  • Staff that spend countless hours second guessing what is required
  • Underutilized staff skills
  • Fearful and poorly motivated staff
  • Lack of creativity and innovation
  • Confusion due to unclear vision, plan or strategy
  • Disempowered staff
  • Lack of trust between leaders and staff; and staff and staff
  • High staff turnover
  • Reduced productivity, efficiency and effectiveness

Micromanagement tends to show up when there is pressure and then with good intentions, the micromanager tries to do everybody else’s job to “help” them meet deadlines. Instead of improving productivity, it is decreased, and dissatisfied workers are created. High turnover of staff should not be a surprise in these situations. According to the College of Business and Administration at Southern Illinois University, the negative impacts of micromanagement are so intense that it is labeled among the top three reasons employees resign.

How can the micromanaging leader move away from the micro to the macro? Communication is the key. Leaders who don’t understand what their staff are doing and staff that don’t understand what the organization requires of them create an environment prone to micromanagement. Fear drives micromanagement, but lack of, or inadequate communication sets up the perfect conditions for micromanagement to thrive.

At the end of the day, both leaders and staff want the same thing–success: Success not only for themselves, but also for their organization. If you’re a micromanager, here are six things you can do to get back on the macro track to productivity:

  1. Conduct a self-assessment to determine your working style. Be honest about your style. Micromanagement does not have to be a way of life.
  2. Delegate work if you are in a position to do so; and trust your staff with the work. If you are not a leader, but are overworked, talk to your boss and discuss how to achieve better workload balance.
  3. Develop a vision for your department or organization. What should your department look like one, two, or five years from now? How will micromanagement impact this vision?
  4. Develop policies and procedures for your organization. Policies help identify standards and procedures help all staff meet the standards without the need to micromanage.
  5. Develop, maintain, and improve communication between all lines of management and staff. If no one communicates, how do you know where the problems are or what issues are most urgent?
  6. Expect and allow staff to make mistakes. Mistakes provide excellent learning opportunities.

In addition, learn to listen. Listening is an important element of communication. Don’t just pay lip service to communication. The more serious you are about communication, the less you will engage in micromanagement and the more your staff will engage with you and with their work.

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