Managing our micromanaging

Bondi Beach, Sydney/Dennis Sparks

[C]ompetence trust involves acknowledging people’s skills and abilities, allowing people to make decisions, involving others and seeking their input, and helping people learn skills. —Dennis Reina & Michelle Reina

Successful school leaders delegate responsibility to others and develop and support those individuals so that they can successfully fulfill their responsibilities. A major barrier to distributed leadership is micromanagement, an all-too-common practice that undermines leaders’ effectiveness and ultimately the ability of schools to achieve their most important goals.

While micromanagement is an insidious and destructive practice, micromanagers often minimize the long-term damage inflicted by their behavior because they believe it is essential in achieving important goals. In short, they believe others will fail unless they are constantly told what to do.

Micromanaging has two primary causes, at least in my experience. The first is that leaders micromanage to deal with their own anxieties about organizational performance—they feel better if they are continuously directing and monitoring others’ actions. The second cause is lack of trust—micromanagers often don’t believe that others will do what they say they will do or that they are capable of successfully completing a task or discharging a responsibility.

Micromanaging is dispiriting. It robs the organization of energy as leaders spread their anxieties far and wide and sow the seeds for even more distrust within the organization. Micromanaging undermines organizational performance because rather than tapping and developing the talents of others, it subtly and not so subtly conveys the message, “You are not capable.”

Given that the insidious effects of micromanaging are often unrecognized by its perpetrators, it behooves each of us to look deep into our own leadership heart to consider its presence and to ask trusted colleagues to tell us if they observe us micromanaging the work of others. And if we should discover its presence, now is a good time to find more productive ways to manage our anxieties and to cultivate the habits of delegating, developing, and supporting others.

1 Response to “Managing our micromanaging”

  1. 1 Kay Psencik November 1, 2010 at 9:31 am

    I have observed another reason–love of power. People who love to be “in charge,” who love for others to “report to them” develop helplessness and powerlessness among others that is also insidious. Leaders have to constantly check their moral purpose for leading in order to keep their love for power in check.

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