Don’t Sweat the Details

June 21, 2011 by Lynn Faughey

As Rose discussed in last month’s newsletter, multi-tasking is an art, but not necessarily the most productive way to accomplish goals.  I really like the idea of single-tasking and have found that I’m no less productive because I choose to juggle fewer responsibilities – at least at the same time.  Along the same lines as multi-tasking, another issue many can relate to is micro-managing. It’s an easy tendency to fall into.

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines micromanagement as “management especially with excessive control or attention on details”.  Generally in business, micro-managing occurs between someone in authority such as a manager and a subordinate.  Obvious signs are feeling the need to be involved in every detail of a project and not letting your subordinates do their jobs without offering constant input. On parallel with mulit-tasking and not being focused enough is the struggle of the micro-manager to do his or her job effectively while trying to do everyone else’s as well.

Being too focused on the details can end up being a distraction to the team’s focus and a detriment to their creativity.  A business colleague of mine recently related an example of her micro-managing boss.  She was part of a marketing team that worked well together.  Their project meetings were relaxed, productive and enjoyable…until the boss showed up.  She told me how the atmosphere of the meeting would immediately change from comfortable to tense as soon as he walked through the door.  Normally outgoing and creative people would clam up, ideas would stop flowing and worst of all time spent on developing the direction of the project was wasted.  This left very competent people feeling frustrated and like puppets having their strings pulled.  My question to her was what was the point of all that talent if no one ever got to use it for more than being micro-managed to tasks?

Here are a few clues you may be holding the reins too tightly:

* You notice a change in your team’s input on projects.  This is often a sign that they don’t think you’re listening to them.  They feel that it’ll be done your way, anyway, so why bother offering ideas.
* Your team seems to just be going through the motions.  Sure, they’re accomplishing what you tell them to, but they’ve lost their personality.
* They stop troubleshooting issues and thinking for themselves due to not feeling their input and expertise is valued.  The micro-manager feels compelled to do it all so why should they bother?

The problem often seen when people are micro-managed is that over time it breaks down their confidence and ultimately their productivity.  Although the micro-manager doesn’t intend his or her ways to be taken personally, the people on the other end cannot help but feel that their boss doesn’t think they are competent or valuable.  The key here is balance.  If you tend to want to manage all the details, take a step back.  Let your people do their jobs and most importantly listen to what they have to say.  Communication really is the key.  Talk to them, not at them.  Resist the urge to over direct, criticize and reinvent the wheel.  Accept that there is more than one correct way to accomplish a task and allow your team members some latitude.  It’s been hot enough this summer so far, do you really need to sweat all the details too?

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