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No one identifies as a micromanager or wakes up one day aspiring to be one. Micromanagers often see themselves as detailed oriented people who strive for perfection. But there’s always something else at play. 

Today I’m talking about why we find ourselves in the micromanager trap, the 5 hidden signs that you might be one, and how to avoid letting these things bleed into your management style and affect your business. 

In this episode:

  • The difference between a perfectionist and a micromanager
  • Why it’s more productive for you not to be involved in every step of the process
  • The importance of clear communication from the beginning of every project

Listen to the episode here:

5 Hidden Signs You’re A Micromanager

I know that I have talked before about micromanaging in the context of what not to put in your job descriptions. Which is more in the realm of don’t put things like “this job isn’t for you if you need to be micromanaged” because it’s a big red flag that actually makes you look like a micromanager. 

But maybe you ARE a micromanager and don’t know it. Many people don’t. They just think they’re a details person or a perfectionist or that it’s simply impossible to find good help these days. Usually though, when we have ongoing and identical problems with our teams, the problem isn’t them…it’s us. 

So today I want to dive into the 5 hidden signs you’re a micromanager so that if you ARE doing these things you can cut that shit out and be a better leader for your team. Even if being a better leader means hiring someone else to manage your team so you can remove yourself from it entirely.

#1 – You assign tasks without clear expectations

I could talk about this one until I am blue in the fucking face, y’all. People are not mind readers. If you want something done a certain way or by a certain date or inside a certain program, you need to communicate that from the very beginning.

If you say “hey build me this order form” without clearly communicating what you want to be on the order form, then you are setting your team and yourself up for failure because you’ve left an information gap that they won’t be able to fill unless they come to you with a zillion questions.

Those zillion questions will annoy the crap out of you but they will be a product of your own making. 

Have you given your team all of the info they need to get the project done and they still have a zillion questions? Then it’s not you, it’s them and you get a pass on this one. But make sure you’re REAL honest with yourself here.

#2 – It’s your way or the highway 

Good LORD do I see this one a lot. And really, why y’all? Why? You are not hiring a clone of yourself. You are hiring a living breathing human being who will have a different workflow, whose brain will work differently, and who potentially will have a lot more experience at the thing you hired them to do than you do.

Which means they will not do it in exactly the same way. Now, you can and should have SOPs written for anything that happens on a recurring basis in your business but those SOPs are living documents that change over time. They’re not meant to be written and then done the same way until you die. 

Let them come in and do things better. Let them see things that are in your blind spots. Give them some autonomy to identify and fix holes or gaps. If you insist on everything being done exactly as you would do it then you will be missing out on the wonderfully rich experience of getting new perspectives and you will probably lose some good team members along the way.

#3 – You zero in on the wrong things

This is the one that a lot of people blame on their perfectionism. And as someone who is a recovering perfectionist, I call bullshit. Maybe I’m unique in that my perfectionism is only crippling to me and it doesn’t apply as much when it comes to my team, but despite what you may think, every single thing does not have to be perfect.

If an email is 99% correct, you do not have to harp on the one typo that you saw in paragraph five. Low click rates are not due to a misplaced comma. 

If you need 87 revisions to get the exact shade of purple for that one document you’re using for one training then you are most certainly not putting your attention where it needs to be.

The devil is not in the details. Or if he is then he’s in there just as a way to distract you from doing the shit that’s actually important. Don’t sweat the small stuff, if you need another cliche. 

#4 – You have to know every single step that’s being taken in the implementation of a project

I promise y’all that you do not need to know every single solitary task that is being done to complete a project. You think you do but that’s your anxiety talking.

In fact, two things happen when you try and get too in the weeds. First, you end up wasting your very valuable time on things that are either below your pay grade or not in your wheelhouse. Which can lead to mistakes. 

Second, when you insist on being a part of every single step, you just straight up get in the way. You become the bottleneck of every decision and every milestone in the project because you insist on being in the know.

When you let your anxiety take over and push into a project where you aren’t needed, you slow the whole process down, you probably introduce unnecessary mistakes, and you create a lot of frustration for your team.

Because now they’re wondering if maybe you don’t trust them to do their job. Or you’re making them do two jobs. The work you hired them to do and constantly babysitting your anxiety.

If you’re having trouble taking a step back and getting out of the weeds, talk to your OBM or DOO, or whoever your right hand is, and let them know what’s coming up for you. Odds are they’d much rather send you more regular progress updates than have you wade into every single aspect of the project and getting in the way. 

#5 – You rush to fix things yourself or are never satisfied with the outcome

Ok, but really though. This one is a problem. If you see a problem with an email or a sales page or a slide deck or whatever the hell it is, and you just jump in and fix it yourself instead of relaying that fix to your team, you are not doing what you think you’re doing. 

Most clients I work with who do this think they’re saving the team time to focus on other things. But all you’re really doing is sending a not so subtle message that you aren’t happy with their work or that you don’t trust them to produce a product that is up to your standards. Not a great look. 

Imagine if every single time you sent something to someone for review they changed something without communicating why they changed what they changed so that you knew better for next time. Eventually, that would begin to undermine your confidence in your own work and it would lead to you repeatedly producing things they weren’t happy with because they didn’t communicate what they were unhappy with or why. 

If you resonate with any of these, don’t panic! It’s not the end of the world and you CAN stop doing these things. It’ll just take some work. How much work depends on a few things. How willing are you to make a change, how willing are you to make mistakes and let others have some control, and how long you’ve been micromanaging your team.

That last one is especially important because if you’ve been doing it for a while, then you’ve cultivated what they call “learned helplessness” in your team. Which is when they become used to you micromanaging and so they’ve lost a lot of autonomy and have adapted to your micromanagement style. 

That makes the transition into a healthier and more productive form of management take longer because you have to train yourself AND re-train them on how to operate without you hovering over them all of the time. 

You do not have to have your hand in every piece of the pie, small mistakes don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, you are not the only person who can do something well, and HOW a project gets done doesn’t matter nearly as much as you think it does.

Alright, that’s it for me today. Bye, y’all.

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