Across the globe, leaders and organizations create strategies to empower and include employees. Leaders encourage employees to bring their individual experiences into the workplace, driving innovation and challenging the status quo. While leaders may truly believe in the tenets of empowerment and inclusion, they often slip back into micro-management, which ends up stifling employee empowerment and eroding trust between employees and leaders.
I try to lead by championing workplace empowerment. On any given day, you’ll find me giving the motivational speeches about not falling back on “we’ve always done it that way” or “we’ve tried that before.” I constantly preach about the benefits of building trust and confidence with peers. Despite all of this, I was shocked to realize that I am a micro-manager.
Recently, my office went through a significant reorganization. We tripled in size, and I was able to bring on two new managers. The new managers, both highly experienced, would handle all of the day to day activities within my office. The thought of being able to finally dedicate more time to big-picture projects, educational outreach and networking across government thrilled me.
Finally, after much anticipation, my managers started, and our new organization took flight. Monday through Thursday of that week I felt great. I had time to check-in with peers, catch-up on documentation and start making plans for the coming year.
Then I hit the brick wall. Friday afternoon I casually looked at the upcoming briefing reports for the next week and the panic began. While reading the briefing reports, I realized that while I knew the overall status and high-level points of our programs, I no longer knew every tiny, intimate detail of their plans/actions. Immediately, I overreacted; thinking that without my day-to-day guidance and involvement everything would come to a halt. I envisioned missed deadlines, negative feedback and (worst of all) failure.
That same afternoon, I reached out to one of my new managers. I shared my anxiety and fears with her. Without missing a beat, she told me “Andy, it’s time to give up control. We’ve got you covered.” I paused and that is when I realized I was a micro-manager.
It was a difficult realization, acknowledging that somehow over the past years I arrogantly associated myself with the successes of my team. Without knowing it, I began to think that I was the necessary piece for our initiatives succeeding.
Since my realization, I have my ups and downs. I remind myself to let go and trust my managers and staff. I still have moments when I feel too removed and fight the urge to jump into all of the little details and planning. Even though I struggle to find my new comfort zone and balance, the team recognizes my release of full-control.
I was a micro-manager and now am on my way to becoming a reformed micro-manager.
You cannot empower employees without sharing the ownership and control of projects/programs with them. Including employees means allowing them to bring their unique skills and experiences to get the job done (even if it may be a different style of working than yours). Finally, micro-managing employees subconsciously tells employees that you don’t really trust them.