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How to meet project deadlines without micromanaging

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Micromanaging is the ‘need’ on the part of any leader to supervise every step of every task that they have assigned to others, in order to make sure it is done right, well and on time. There are many leadership styles and combinations. And while some styles lend themselves more to micromanaging, this habit can occur no matter what.

What motivates micromanaging?

Several things actually. Some managers are perfectionists and do not think someone else can do something as well as they can; others simply are inexperienced and have never learned how to correctly delegate; still others are in an autocratic ‘control’ mode – usually indicating that they just don’t trust others. Whatever the motivation, it can be destructive and exhausting for the manager who engages in it.

For those who have a tendency to micromanage, the habit becomes far more pronounced when a critical deadline has been set for project completion.

Here is the typical scenario: A project manager may assign tasks to each of their team members. They then spend all the time during the completion of those tasks running from one employee to the other checking progress, making suggestions, even criticising and asking for changes on what has already been done. If this sounds a bit like you, then you need to take a step back and reassess how you spend your time, and why you are doing this.

Deadlines can be met without micromanaging

Of course, this means a major shift in behaviour on the part of a leader, but it can be done. Here are some ways in which deadlines can be met without ‘hovering’.

  1. Establish an environment of honesty
    Honesty is highly beneficial for a productive team. Leadership experts James Kouzes and Barry Posner claim that ‘honesty is essential to a leader’s legitimacy, credibility, and ability to develop trust with followers.’ Team members who have been micromanaged in the past may not trust their leader. It will take time. But try it with a small project at first. Divide up the tasks and delegate them individually.

    Explain to your team that you know you have micromanaged in the past and that you do not want to continue to do this because you trust them to do their jobs independently. Do tell them that if they run into a snag or need additional resources, they should come to you. Otherwise you’ll check in via a regular schedule of meetings with the entire team (and explain the schedule). Gradually, your team will come to believe you. They will have a new attitude towards you and their work, and will actually become more productive.
  1. Set a meeting schedule and keep to it
    These might be weekly or monthly, and send out only a simple reminder. This time should be spent listening. Ask questions about progress and then let team members talk. They will be more open with you and one another, and problem-solving can occur as a group effort, not as a directive from you. “I was the ‘queen’ of micro-managing,” says the All Top Reviews Content Editor, Sally Schwartz. “My boss finally had to counsel me to ‘lighten up’ and schedule bi-weekly meetings. My team members now tell me how irritating I was in those early days, and we laugh about it.”
  1. Tune-up your own leadership skills
    If you are in a leadership position and in charge of a team, you need to continuously learn those key skills that make a team ‘sing’. You may need to find some training in coaching, delegating, teamwork, and decision making with others. The more you learn and practice, the less will be your need to micromanage.
  1. Don’t respond immediately
    When you receive a text or email from a team member, don’t drop everything and respond immediately (unless it’s very urgent). This can be ‘helicoptering’. Get on with your own work and respond if needed in about 30 minutes. Chances are they will have talked with other team members or engaged in their own problem solving and may not need your help after all – a win-win. And, it gives you practise on letting them get on with it. A good leader and manager knows why trust is so important. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said, ‘Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.’
  1. Set up a reporting schedule
    If you have a deadline, then you have obviously set up benchmark points at which formative tasks must be completed. At these points, your team should be reporting to you, not you running to them. “Let the employees bring the reports themselves…just determine the deadline and let them do the rest,” advises Erica Willis, the head of the content department at Essayguard. Set a date and time to receive those reports and trust that they will come in. Then, you only have to connect with one or two who have been remiss.

Giving up micromanaging is hard

It’s a habit. And like with all habits it takes commitment, motivation and consistent practice to overcome. But, as you ‘free’ your team members to become independent and trusted, they will respond with greater productivity and a greater desire to please you. This means they will work hard to meet the deadlines you set.

Image: MPetrovskaya/


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