Business Management / Leadership

How to manage without micromanaging

Laura Dolan

Updated: Sep 20, 2022 · 5 min read

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difference between managing and micromanaging

Knowing the difference between managing and micromanaging is what makes a successful leader.

Micromanaging leads to unmotivated and underappreciated employees who aren’t willing to give their best effort.

There’s a delicate balance between checking in with your employees and flat out just doing the work for them.

Demonstrating trust and encouragement among your employees will improve morale, inspiring your staff to take initiative and help you free up your time to address more pressing matters affecting the business.

The following reveals how managers can hold their employees accountable without micromanaging:

Micromanagement vs. accountability

Micromanagement occurs when a manager takes over or observes every move their staff members make.

A micromanager doesn’t have enough faith in their employees that they will do the job correctly or to the degree that the manager expects. The managers end up doing the tasks themselves leaving their employees with nothing to do and, inevitably, giving them no choice but to go job hunting.

Accountability involves holding employees responsible for their respective jobs. There are 2 types: personal accountability and team accountability.

As opposed to micromanagement, accountability reflects how well a manager holds their employees responsible for their individual tasks.

A good manager will stress to whom everyone is accountable so there’s no ambiguity when it comes to who’s supposed to be doing what.

A good employee wants to be held accountable for getting their work done. Accountability helps people feel they have a purpose and a responsibility toward contributing to the success of the company with confidence, which keeps them engaged.

According to Officevibe, employees who lack motivation can adversely impact the company’s productivity, resulting in losses between $450 billion and $550 billion per year.

Why micromanaging should be avoided

When employees feel like they’re under a microscope, it can be distracting. It impedes their concentration and affects their ability to remember to do certain tasks or complete them.

Micromanaging also leads to not encouraging employees, which prevents them from learning new skills or feeling like they’re under such constant supervision that they feel under pressure, resulting in poor performance.

Employees are more motivated to work when they’re able to set their own schedules and work independently. A good manager will recognize who their self-starters are and trust that they will do their jobs completely and successfully.

Managing an accountable team

According to the Harvard Business Review, the most common thing that managers avoid doing is holding their employees accountable for their actions. Its research involved the observation of over 5,400 upper-level managers worldwide.

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Its research suggests:

“There is an even deeper explanation for the lack of managerial courage to hold employees to account for their performance.

“The evidence comes from experimental studies of cooperation and the problem of ‘free-riding,’ which reveal the individual- and group-level outcomes that accrue when some team members don’t carry their weight and drag on the performance of others.

“The first lesson from this research is that within a group, free-riders and cheaters often get ahead of hard working contributors: they enjoy the benefits of group membership without making the personal sacrifice.

“However, groups of cooperative contributors outperform groups of cheating free-riders. Thus, it is no surprise that groups in which free-riders are punished for their loafing outperform groups in which they are not.

“But the interesting finding in all of this is that the person who does the punishing actually pays a personal price in terms of lost social support. In a nutshell, group performance requires that someone plays the role of sheriff, but it is a thankless job.”

When holding your team accountable, the team members need to know what’s expected of them. Setting concise, quantifiable goals eliminates ambiguity and results in better productivity.

When the manager and the employee are on the same page in terms of what needs to be accomplished, it establishes an accountability foundation from the start.

Be open about accountability

There shouldn’t be a stigma against accountability in any company.

A good leader will get everyone on board and comfortable with the idea of holding each other responsible.

Weekly strategy meetings should always involve what it’s going to take to make sure each team member is pulling their weight on a project and what measures will be taken to ensure certain people are being held responsible for keeping the momentum going.

Brainstorming accountability for each project will create an open discussion on how productivity will bring the team closer to meeting a deadline.

It’s also wise to ask how your team members want to be held accountable, and establish a process that works for the whole department.

Provide your employees with what they need

A good leader will offer what their employees need up front in an effort for them to be successful. Providing tools such as research or a blueprint will give employees access to what issues they need to work on or fix in order to know what will constitute an effective turnout.

Work with your team

Establishing the difference between micromanaging and accountability should prevent a manager from being gun-shy about getting in the trenches with their team (within reason) to establish what actions need to be taken to ensure success, and then letting the team tackle the project on its own.

Helping your team realize how it can hold each other accountable will create independence and dissolve any ambiguity as to what’s expected of them.

Making your employees a part of the process will help them feel more valuable and motivated, knowing they’re working toward not just a company victory, but a personal one.

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