Are You a Control Freak?
By Amy Skidmore
If you’re a supervisor within your company, even if it’s only over one employee, be honest: Do you micromanage?
Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, says, “To be a good leader, you cannot major in minor things.” His recommendation is to develop “selective ignorance,” so that the trivial matters don’t drown you. While I understand that no corporate task should be deemed trivial (if it is, there’s opportunity for operational streamlining), the intent of his sentiment is clear: As you move up the ranks, it’s imperative to let go, leaving a whole list of tasks behind.
I get it — that can be incredibly scary. After all, odds are that each and every person you supervise will not do things exactly like you would. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, nor does it make those around you wrong.
Think of your job as if you are an editor. Someone sends an article for proofreading. There’s two ways you can go about editing: 1. Make sure the copy is clear and understandable and the punctuation is correct, or 2. Overhaul the copy so it matches your own style of writing (in which case, you probably should have just written it yourself in the first place).
If your management style is the equivalent of an editor rewriting everyone else’s submissions so it “sounds right” to you, you’re robbing your organization of the intrinsic power that comes from multiple voices. Instead, you should only be reviewing other’s efforts on the end result, not how they got there. Let’s go back to Ferriss’s notion of “selective ignorance,” because that’s where I think the crux of micromanagement lies. I remember one of the first arguments I had with my husband. As I was dicing a tomato, he told me I was doing it incorrectly. Translation: I wasn’t doing it the way he did it. Yet I pointed out to him — very sweetly I’m sure — that both his diced pieces and my diced pieces looked exactly the same in the end. Same with projects at work. Judge the result, not the checklist of tasks along the way. Have selective ignorance when how someone does something matters less that what they deliver.
I’ve worked with micromanagers. Actually, let me be more specific: I’ve hated working with micromanagers. You probably have too, and here’s why:
- Micromanagement sends a clear signal that you just don’t trust others enough to do their job.
- If your time is spent overseeing everyone else’s job, yours isn’t being done.
- Micromanagement sucks the creativity out of people and leaves everyone focused nearly exclusively on a checklist.
- While you have control when you micromanage, you have little else. It robs your company of momentum, enthusiasm and, I’d argue, opportunities for growth.
So be honest. Do you micromanage? If so, recognize the problems it creates and vow to loosen the strings a bit. If you can’t leave others to do their job on their own, I’d argue that you have a bigger issue at hand; you hired the wrong people — and if that’s the case, you’ve got a whole new project of your own to tackle.