by Evert Akkerman
It’s all too common for people to end up in leadership positions while lacking the necessary people management skills. Once in charge of a team, they lack the ability to give direction, build a cohesive team or motivate people. Instead, they micromanage—trying to control every aspect of every task their employees were hired to do.
Often, micromanagers see their staff as potential threats to their positions. Others fear that poorly performing staff reflect back on them and they don’t want to take that chance. Then there are those who used to do a certain job, got very good at it and were then promoted out of it. They tend to revert back to it, as a break from work they are newer to and not as good at (e.g. managing).
Regardless of the underlying causes, when managers don’t delegate, employees never learn how to do their job independently. Also, the message the employees get is that the boss doesn’t trust them to do a good job. If managers fill their days with trivial details, how can they possibly deliver on organizational goals? When we focus our efforts on the micro-level, we will get micro-results.
Micromanagers slow down the decision-making process considerably, as everyone waits for approval and stops being proactive. They do huge damage to the organization by destroying teams and frustrating their best employees—often causing them to leave the organization. Many lack all self-reflection, but at least some must realize their lack of fit. As they move up the corporate ladder, they move ever further out of their skill zone, with team morale, productivity–and ultimately profitability–as collateral damage.
In terms of solutions, keep in mind that you have a high degree of control in 1) the recruitment stage, 2) the performance management process and 3) succession planning. If we want to hire for a current or new position that oversees people and delegation is a key requirement, it’s important to probe for micromanagement tendencies during the interview and when checking references. For both tenured and new managers, we can address and record a tendency to micromanage on their performance reviews. This creates a written record of counterproductive and dangerous behaviours.
If a manager consistently refuses to delegate and doesn’t make optimum use of team members’ talents, HR can build an excellent case for not promoting this person to a position of even greater responsibility, where micromanaging would have an even bigger impact. Instead, give the nod to people that have a record of delegating responsibilities and whose staff members thrive. Documenting this skill – or the lack thereof – is an effective way to assess and manage risk. This is where HR has a key opportunity to add value.
Evert Akkerman is a member of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA)—the regulator of the HR profession in Ontario. www.hrpa.ca
Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA)
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