Dear Micromanagers, Please Stop

You’re the boss and you’re there for a reason. You worked your butt off, you won the acclaim and you earned the right be in charge. The only problem is, you’re a micromanager.

You’ll ruin it for yourself unless you learn to let go, because you’ll eventually be hated, no matter how nice you are. You’ll chase talented people away and news of your meddling will spread. In an increasingly connected world, you can’t afford that.

You might consider yourself a perfectionist and maybe that’s true, but great leaders don’t carry tweezers. They don’t hover. They don’t manipulate. They focus more on strategy and less on execution. They hire talented people and give them space to do their work. 

When you give people autonomy and room to grow, they flourish. And you reap the rewards. But when you second guess everything they do, you’re forcing them to spend their time trying to predict what you’ll want instead of using their own best judgment. 

The world is full of diverse points of view—the myriad pigments that make our world so colorful. So why are you trying to color everything with your one color? Do you really want everything to be monochromatic? I’d guess not. 

Perhaps you didn’t hire the right people after all. If you’re constantly overruling, dictating and mandating, perhaps you need different people. People you trust.

Or maybe now that you’re in charge of strategy, you really miss the execution part of the process. In which case, you’ve got a serious problem.

Here are some suggestions: 

Take a poll. Ask your direct reports if they feel you’re micromanaging. And be big enough to listen to criticism. Then do something about it.

Collaborate early not late. If you really can’t resist meddling, go ahead and involve yourself in the process. But do it in the early stages of idea development instead of changing everything to fit your personal tastes at the end of the process. 

Better yet, don’t meddle at all. If you feel inclined to re-write, re-design or re-think someone else’s work, stop. Stay at your 30,000 foot altitude instead of focusing on the weeds. Don’t suggest replacement language or alternate designs. Instead say, “This needs to be more authentic and colloquial.” Or “This needs to be more simple and iconic.” Then let your people execute from that feedback. Keep it in broad terms, otherwise you’re turning your people into puppets.

If you resist the urge to micromanage, you will effect massive change. You’ll get better work from your team. They’ll spend less time guessing and predicting, and more time using their brain. Plus, you’ll win their favor.

It’s a mindset. Leaders aren’t supposed to do the work, they’re supposed to lead and inspire those who do the work. Sure, it’s not easy to let go, but it’s best for everyone.

If it helps, think of it in these terms: You’re a museum director. Your job is to curate. Your job isn’t to re-paint or re-sculpt every painting or sculpture. Simply choose the work that speaks to you and fits your vision. This way, you’ll keep it diverse and interesting, and you’ll succeed in creating a surprising and amazing experience for your audience.