Let’s consider this scenario. You’ve been hired or appointed to be in a leadership position in your company; congratulations! You are excited, nervous, anxious, and questioning your abilities and many other emotions while trying to find your way. You’ve been in management positions, but this is different because you now lead the organization. So, you’re asking yourself, will I be effective enough to drive the organizational and strategic change the Board of Directors envisions for the next few years? How can I align my vision with the desires of the BoD? You speak with some of your mentors and peers who have been where you are, and they reassure you that the emotions that you are feeling are normal. They give you advice from their experiences to help calm your fears. So, you forge ahead.
Well, you’re now in the position and developing a rapport with the managers who lead the departments within the organization. You discuss the strategic goals, suggest ways to achieve those goals, get feedback from the managers on how the team can successfully implement those goals, and put in place accountability standards to ensure the goals are met while also giving some room for adjustments.
You’ve addressed the organization to ensure everyone is on the same page concerning goals and plans for the organization. You begin familiarizing yourself with the ins and outs of each department and developing a rapport with the managers who tackle the day-to-day operations. You’re making suggestions based on your past experiences to help those managers use their time and resources better. You want to make sure the day-to-day is continuing to get better, so you stay looped in by scheduling meetings and having the managers or other leaders pass things by you to get your opinion or let you know what’s going on and get your approval for different things to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Now let’s fast forward to a year from now. You’ve found your rhythm and think that everything is going well. You feel like you are working well with others, and you thrive on being looped in; you love the small details of projects; you make changes to processes without discussing them with the manager because you think your way is better; you force employees to work in the office because you feel them being in the office equals more productivity; you like that you play a part in everything down to the wording that was created as a constant contact email that is going out to clients; you want to be a part of every decision within the organization. You feel like the growth of the organization is coming along, you have some employees who might buck the system occasionally, but overall, you think employees are happy; you know that there are aspects of the organization that aren’t perfect, but overall, you feel like you are a successful leader, and you have found YOUR way. END SCENARIO…
So, this leader has found their way, and they feel things are going great, but do you spot any red flags? Is this leader going down the slippery slope of what some might consider a micromanager – someone who likes to direct or control people, processes, and everything else to the point of interfering with employees doing their job effectively? I would say it is possible!
Have you ever had, do you currently have, or know a leader who micromanages? Alright, now, don’t raise those hands too high! Would that person admit that they are micromanager? Probably not, because they think they are doing what is best for the company. Some micromanagers might mean well, but what they do not realize is that micromanaging can possibly suck the life right out of a company and its employees. It can be exhausting for those being micromanaged, especially if that is the leadership style of several leaders throughout the organization.
There has always been a debate about whether micromanaging is necessary, but I lean more toward it not being necessary, especially in extreme cases. Yes, monitoring important projects closely or helping managers and staff get back on track to achieve goals is a short-term solution. Still, if there is a culture of coaching and empowering, then micromanaging becomes unnecessary.
Being hired or appointed into leadership positions does not mean that the leader must be a part of every decision or control everything. Yes, you are the boss, but leadership is not about control; it is about influence. For some, surrendering that control is one of the hardest things to do. In an article I wrote entitled, Check your influence, we see that when leaders allow control to dominate, they are setting the organization up for failure because the outcome of control is usually resistance and negative results.
Surrendering control might sound like the leader is weak or giving up and waving the white flag, but on the contrary, it exudes strength, confidence, and boldness. Don’t worry; leaders will still have that bird’s eye view of the organization, enabling them to guide the organization effectively. However, trusting those who report to them to get the job done will ease the transition from control to influence. Surrendering control is about letting go of the day-to-day to create an atmosphere where collaboration and innovation are front and center, ultimately unlocking and discovering employee potential that the bottleneck of micromanagement and mistrust has stifled. When leaders surrender, employees are elevated and empowered because they feel safe in their work environment, allowing them to be authentic. When employees are authentic within their environment, they are free to take creative risks that benefit the organization, express ideas, and make mistakes that won’t result in a brown box special.
Surrendering control won’t happen overnight, but leaders must choose daily to let go, understanding that surrendering makes a more significant impact. I know it is in a different context, but let’s all sing together that famous song from Frozen, ♪♫ LET IT GO, LET IT GO♪♫, and surrender the control holding you, your employees, and your company back from greatness.
“Lead from the back and let others believe they are in front.” — Nelson Mandela.