How to manage without micromanaging

Everybody hates micromanagement, but few understand how to manage without micromanaging. 

Most employees anticipate some level of micromanagement. It’s what we know and, unfortunately, anticipate. There is a better way to challenge and help employees learn and grow. Instead of creating a toxic culture of “perform or you’re fired,” be the boss people want to work for. 

1. Step number one is to understand your talent.

Given that you have hired the right people, allow them to try new things and fail. Use the “eye” test to evaluate your employees. Are they trying new things? Are they engaged in their work? Are they well-prepared and have showed that they want to make an impact? Are they being coachable? Do they bring a good energy to the office? 

The first thing managers tend to do is to look at productivity numbers. Instead of first asking, “why aren’t you performing?” Get to know them. Show them that you are there for them and care for their success. Don’t discuss numbers at this point. Talk about the things they are doing well and what they are doing to improve. Ask “what can I do to help?” 

2. Next step is career development.

People want to improve and move up. Show them the way - again, not by talking about numbers and productivity metrics, but by discussing “soft skills.” Show that you have spent the time to consider their career and ask where they want to go and why they want to go there. Don’t talk about the “how” quite yet, simply talk about their motivations and what gets them out of bed in the morning. Now you are in a position to discuss leadership, communication, management, sales, personal, and other soft skills. 

Talk about their personal and professional goals. This is a trust-building conversation. It is important to express your weaknesses and strengths, being vulnerable in order to build trust. Then ask: “what can I do to help?” 

3. Last step: discuss effort.

This is where things get tricky. I can guarantee you that your people know how much effort they are or are not putting into their work. They don’t need to be reminded of where there numbers are and what there metrics look like. Chances are those reports and dashboards are either displayed throughout the office or made readily available. They know what their numbers are, they have been conditioned to be hyper focused on data. You don’t need to do a metrics review with them. Instead, revolve the conversation around ownership. Ask them if they know what it takes (from an effort standpoint) to be successful. Then encourage them to look introspectively and reflect upon whether or not they are doing what it takes. The idea here is to not scold them for what they are or are not doing, but rather help them take a deep dive into their own metrics and do some self-analysis. 

A few questions to ask: 

“Do you know the metrics it takes for you, personally, to have success?” 

“Do you feel like you are able to get there? 

“What can I do to help?” 

This comes with time. It is developed through trust. It’s okay to be wrong. It’s even more important to admit that you may have been wrong in the past but you are changing things now. Show them that you are going to be accountable to them on this system of management and ask if there is anything concerning their goals with which they would like to be accountable.

Easy enough to understand, right? More difficult to apply.