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Three Steps To Drive Results Without Micromanagement

A manager and their direct report work together to achieve results

No one really likes micromanaging, yet it is a popular management strategy at almost every level. Most managers who micromanage express that the best way to ensure success is to take control. While that may sound reasonable, it ultimately doesn’t work.

The Problem With Micromanagement

Micromanagement is an organizational disease similar to silos in that it is easy to employ, especially when we are stressed, pressured to get results and have fewer resources than we need to achieve successful results. However, the problems created by micromanagement are many and often disastrous to organizational growth and profitability:

  • Micromanagement-type coaching can work for inexperienced employees, but for experienced employees who want to grow in their career, constantly being told how to do things can be stifling, preventing them from learning and making the necessary mistakes to grow and develop their own critical thinking.
  • Organizations can’t create effective succession planning or leadership development road maps when micromanagement is taking place. Again, if you don’t get your own experience to stretch your levels of authority, influence and autonomy, you will have a hard time growing past your current role.
  • In my experience, ownership and accountability go way down when people feel micromanaged. The work simply becomes a reflection of their boss rather than them, so their dedication and commitment can easily diminish.
  • Even success that gets recognized doesn’t feel good for the person being micromanaged because it doesn’t feel like a real success.
  • Learning is diminished because the micromanaged person isn’t engaged in the process of development — only in doing what they are told to do.

Related Article: 8 Personal Accountability Habits of a great Leader

Three Steps To Drive Results Without Micromanagement

The biggest concern most managers have is losing control over performance when there is a history of missing deadlines or inconsistent quality results. The assumption is that the only way to ensure success is to watch everything the person does to catch any mistakes immediately. This is a limiting mindset and flawed way of thinking. Why? Because the goal is not to ensure accountability for tasks and activities. The goal is to ensure accountability for results or following a plan to achieve results!

1. Delegate desired outcomes, not activities, projects or tasks.

No matter how well you describe what needs to be done or how to do it, you are not ensuring that what someone does will produce the results you desire. It’s important to clarify what needs to be accomplished in terms of results if you want to manifest those results. 

Make sure the agreed-upon desired result includes the context for the result — how does this result fit into other initiatives or objectives driven by the organization or customer? Include parameters such as the criteria for success:

  • Acceptable and non-acceptable behavior, communication or actions
  • Necessary inclusion or coordination with other stakeholders
  • Following policies or procedures already established by the organization or regulatory bodies

Having an understanding around the desired outcome allows the person to be successful in the way that best works for them.

2. Establish a plan or road map for success.

Sometimes the person you are delegating to doesn’t have a great track record of consistently successful results. This leaves you feeling like you either have to give them full space to perform their own way or micromanage them into success. But there is another option that, in my experience, works so much better. 

Ask your team member to develop a plan of how they will approach accomplishing the desired outcome that they agreed to achieve on schedule. This way, they are having to think it through and present their approach to you. This means you get to check their critical thinking, planning, level of detail and coordination with others. If you see holes in any area of their plan, you can ask questions to surface what is missing or discuss what to do differently to invoke better results. If you disagree with their approach, you can establish a “recovery plan” if it doesn’t work and pre-emptively plan for course correction. This allows you to feel less in the dark about how the job will get done without micromanaging. And it puts you in a natural coaching role rather than a micromanaging role.

Based on the plan, you can also establish a follow-up schedule for checking in. This is more about surfacing challenges than hovering over the person to make sure they are doing it your way or the “right” way. It’s an opportunity to monitor results without micromanaging through an already agreed-upon process.

3. Follow-up, monitor and coach.

Once you’ve established a plan, it’s critical to have consistent check-ins to track progress and surface any unresolved roadblocks. Encourage your employees to bring up challenges or obstacles for joint problem-solving. Listen to the solutions your team member or direct report created and then work together to fine-tune those solutions. You can ask questions to facilitate critical thinking, broaden someone’s perspective or expand their thinking. When done right, this won’t feel like micromanagement, but rather just a caring and supportive partnership focused on results and developing the team member. In that same vein, the focus of these check-ins shouldn’t be all about problems. Throughout, it’s important to also acknowledge accomplishments, including problems solved, challenges overcome and milestones achieved.

Implementing these three steps can give leaders peace of mind and allow team members to successfully do their work, learn as they go and build both confidence and skill.

This article was first published as a Forbes Coaches Council Post.

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