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Productivity / Processes

Micromanaging: Overcoming your inner micromanager

If you’ve ever worked for a micromanager, you know how destructive it is. One of the joys of soloism is being free of micromanaging monsters. But are you really?

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Here’s how to tell if you’re controlling your way to misery, and what to do about it.

Ask anyone what micromanagers do and they’re quick to answer: oversee everything, focus on detail instead of the big picture, and show no confidence in the input of others. (Note: The actual words used might not be that polite).

What effect do micromanagers have? Again the answers are clear: they erode creativity, confidence, morale and progress. It’s a slow-acting poison that eventually takes over.

Surely life as a soloist means freedom from these micromanaging tyrants? In a way, it does. You’re not going to have a boss breathing down your neck and refusing to delegate even the tiniest decision to you. You don’t need to, when you can inject that poison yourself.

Why micromanage?

The urge to micromanage comes from fear of failure or loss of control. Clamping down hard means no risk. Right?

"When you’re tied up with process and detail, you won’t be free to create, strategise and thrive."

Wrong, of course. When you’re tied up with process and detail, you won’t be free to create, strategise and thrive. That fearful urge to protect from danger can create the very failure you want to avoid.

Want more articles like this? Check out the processes section.

What are the warning signs of micromanaging?

I need that memo in triplicate

Having systems is great when it means you aren’t re-inventing the wheel each time you issue an invoice or do a proposal.

You’re micromanaging yourself if those systems have a life of their own. Superfluous, detailed procedures can double your work. Ask yourself what value each process adds. If you can’t describe it quickly and clearly, dump it or fix it. Fast.

Sorry, can’t take that sales meeting. It’s invoice day

You’ve culled your systems and they all make sense. That won’t deter inner micromanagers! They’ll bog you down by getting so mired in small details that the big picture can’t be seen.

If you’re cutting off progress to cleave to the rules, stop. Ask yourself: What’s my goal? How is this tight control helping get me there? Be flexible enough to allow the how to change in service of what you actually want to achieve. 

Only 110% will do

So you have high standards and a commitment to quality. That’s great.

So you’re checking and rechecking a report and won’t send it out until you’re certain there’s no person on earth that could possibly improve it? Your client isn’t going to thank you for work that arrives so late they can’t use it. If your need for perfection is paralysing you – recognise the harm that’s doing, and decide that done is better than perfect.

It’s easier if I do it myself

How often have you heard that particular sentence from a micromanager? If you’re a personal trainer and you’re doing all your own admin, bookkeeping, copywriting and design – have a think about what you could outsource.

Someone once said if you do it yourself, you’re paying top dollar for amateur results. Is this you?

Strike a balance

Kicking your inner micromanager to the curb doesn’t mean kicking your standards away too. Good managers strike the right balance between accountability and autonomy. Pay yourself the same respect, notice the difference and enjoy your freedom!

Have you (micro) managed to get this balance right? Please share your experiences with us.

Madeleine Shaw

is a personal and executive coach who helps people get on with living brilliantly.

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