Human-Centric Leadership: How Visionary Leaders Avoid Micromanager Syndrome
By Fast Company Executive Board
When you’re a visionary leader, sometimes the image of what you want crystallizes in your mind like a perfect snowflake, so clear you can see almost every detail.
But one of the principles of visionary leadership is implementing a human-centric approach to management. This means treating employees as humans, respecting their strengths and trusting them to do good work. If you feel you have to tell your employees exactly what to do and how to do it, you’re micromanaging.
And that’s a problem. Because no matter how clear your vision is, micromanaging prevents you from gaining potentially valuable input and innovation your team might contribute as they go. It also makes people resent you, your vision, and the horse you rode in on.
So let’s consider how you might accidentally become a micromanager, how to know whether you are one, how to stop behaviors that frustrate and impair your team, and what to do instead.
How You Might Accidentally Become a Micromanager
Most micromanagers don’t intend to become one.
Instead, according to Harvard Business Review, there are two main reasons people micromanage. Either they feel a need to connect more closely with their direct reports, or they are more comfortable doing the work (probably the work that used to be their main responsibility) than managing others who do it.
Both problems stem from anxiety - specifically, anxiety that if you don’t handle everything yourself, things won’t happen the way you want them to.
Unfortunately, this anxiety breeds mistrust, and mistrust breeds micromanagers.
You Might Be a Micromanager If:
Take a quick peek at this list. Do you:
- Find yourself obsessed with small details of big projects?
- Find yourself doing things that are part of someone else’s job description?
- Need to sign off on every part of every task your team does?
- Need to be CC’d on every email?
- Need updates from team members more often than once per day?
- Need an hour-by-hour breakdown of when your team is doing what?
- Need detailed reports of each step in a process?
- Fix other people’s mistakes yourself instead of teaching them how to fix them?
- Believe you are the only one who can be trusted to [fill in the blank]?
These behaviors are red flags. If you’ve answered yes to one or more, you might be a micromanager. Don’t panic; some simple fixes can help you become a more effective and less stressed-out leader.
How to Stop Micromanaging
Micromanagement is anathema to a human-centric workplace. If you want a vibrant workplace with a team focused on bringing your vision to life, you must implement techniques to stop micromanaging.
If you feel disconnected from your team, listen and digest
A desire to stay connected with operations may seem like a good thing. It may even be a good thing — as long as you find healthy ways to connect rather than smothering your team micromanager-style.
Try listening closely and actively at daily stand-ups or other team meetings. Give yourself time to digest what your team is saying before you hit them with a barrage of questions. If you spend enough time listening, you should get a clear sense of what’s happening with your team and have plenty of time to intervene in case of an impending disaster. But usually there’s no disaster, and your team will appreciate having time to figure things out and make them work themselves.
If you’ve always handled things yourself, build trust
For someone who is used to jumping in and getting things done themselves, it can be hard to delegate and let go of control as a business scales. But your company will only grow as much as you let it. No matter how brilliant your ideas may be, leading in a visionary way requires pushing past any discomfort you may feel when you’re not in control. So you need to allow yourself to trust your employees.
Hire people that you trust to bring something valuable to the table. Then let them bring it.
What Your Team Needs — and Doesn’t Need — From You
As you implement more empowering and trusting policies in an attempt to be a good leader at work and create a human-centric business, remember that your team still needs you.
They need you to set clear expectations. You should clearly outline the outcomes you expect — then leave the specifics of how to accomplish those results to the people working on the task.
They need you to answer questions. Chances are you have some information the rest of your team doesn’t have, either from direct contact with a client or from executive meetings. Your team may have questions only you can answer, so they need you to be available to respond.
They need you to do the things only you can do. As a leader, there are some calls only you can make. Focus your time and energy on those decisions, and not on doing the work your team is meant to do.
They do NOT need you to schedule their time. Do not ask what they intend to get done each hour. Step away and let them do their thing.
They do NOT need you to ask for constant updates. Your team should be able to provide scheduled status updates and reassess time estimates as they work through a project, but not more than once daily. Sometimes weekly updates are more than enough.
They do NOT need you to fix their mistakes. Instead, if you notice errors, guide your team to fix things themselves, demonstrating when necessary, but not taking over. If you teach instead of commandeering, your employees will become more skilled and productive.
How can you improve your visionary leadership skills and motivate your staff to give their best?
Blend visionary leadership and strategic management skills to create a team that knows what you need and has the autonomy to give you their best work. Allow them to run with your ideas and see what happens. They are likely to surprise you with their passion and skill.