Back when Ilana started working with Eric, they made a plan for Ilana to write Eric’s LinkedIn posts. The idea was that, since Ilana was the in-house writer, this should fall under her purview as well as writing blogs, web copy, etc. Eric gave Ilana access to his LinkedIn profile as an admin, with the instructions to make a content schedule and post to the page.
However, Eric also wanted to approve all of Ilana’s posts to the page before they went up. At first, Ilana played by this rule: She wrote posts, sent them to Eric, and waited for him to approve them. But, this turned into a lot of waiting around, which delayed the posts—sometimes so much that they were no longer relevant by the time Eric got around to giving his approval.
Ilana called Eric and adopted her most stern former teacher voice. (As a classroom teacher of over 15 years, Ilana has a teacher voice that is really quite terrifying.) “You have given me access to the company's LinkedIn page,” she admonished. “But you won’t let me post on it without your permission. That makes no sense. So make up your mind: Either I have administrative access, and can post to the company page as I see fit—or I don’t have admin access, and I send you all my pre-written posts for you to post online yourself. But there is no middle ground. I can’t have access, but not have access. Which is it going to be?”
“Okay, okay, you’re right,” Eric said. “And also you are the most brilliant and outstanding writer ever.” (Okay, he maybe didn’t say that last part explicitly, but it was implied.)
“So I can post to the company page as I see fit?” Ilana asked. (Here, she reiterated that she would under no circumstances post to LinkedIn about personal topics, political or religious ideologies, or anything else irrelevant to the company and its work—not that Eric really thought she would, but it’s always good to get that out in the open.)
“Yes, I trust you,” Eric said. Then he thought for a minute and added, “Just do me a favor and run what you post by me beforehand?”
At this point, Ilana face-palmed so hard she knocked herself a week into the past, and then asked Eric, again, “How is that different from what we were doing before? Make up your mind! Do you want to trust me with access to the administrative page, or not?”
(Here, Ilana wants to insert that Eric is actually a very cuddly person to work for, and was super receptive to discussing why this arrangement made no sense, and everything was way less dramatic than it sounds like here. But far be it from us to get in the way of building narrative tension! So for the sake of this story, imagine their conversation looked like this.)
After taking a step back and reflecting on the situation, Eric and Ilana discovered that they were in the midst of a micromanaging crisis—one that plays out constantly in offices worldwide, particularly when one individual is leading a team, and has trouble letting go of the reins.
For the uninitiated, micromanaging is a style of business management—but one with deservedly negative connotations. It involves exerting excessive, unnecessary control over the work of subordinates, employees, or (in Ilana’s case) contractors. This backfires for everyone: For the manager, it ends up necessitating more work that is redundant and unnecessary, taking away valuable time from tasks that actually require this manager’s attention and skills (not to mention cutting into free time with extraneous tasks.) For the person on the receiving end, micromanagement signals a lack of trust and confidence, diminishes morale, and ultimately contributes to creating a toxic and un-fun environment in which to work.
Some signs of micromanaging include:
Micromanaging bosses or team-leaders tend not to keep their people around very long; this counterproductive tendency results in high employee attrition, burnout, and low engagement and motivation. It also reinforces a cycle of dependency on the manager, when team members cannot move without their express oversight or risk repercussions.
So if you’re reading this article, and thinking this sounds an awful lot like your management style, you might be wondering, “How can I stop micromanaging my team?” The answer comes down to a single word: TRUST.
By placing trust in your people—employees, team-members, contractors, what-have-you—and stepping back, you allow a diversity of viewpoints, insights, and skills that support and improve the project, whatever its objective.
For Eric and Ilana, establishing that trust allowed Eric to relinquish control over the admin page, and for Ilana to post as she saw fit. So he stepped back, and trusted that Ilana could post the company page. That worked, for a while—nothing exploded, engagement continued to grow, and everything was fine.
And eventually, Ilana decided social media wasn’t really her wheelhouse, anyway—which caused Eric to take another step towards a healthy managing style: delegating. He brought in Diana to oversee social media, resulting in a more robust strategy, better content for LinkedIn posts, and exciting engagement from all kinds of new people and organizations. (Everyone say Hi to Diana! She totally rocks - Eric)
It all served to reinforce a helpful lesson—that part of managing well involves stepping back and letting your people do what they’re best at. (And, it keeps anyone from breaking out the teacher voice, which I think we can all agree is a must-miss, two thumbs-down, no family-fun situation.) Optimizing and leveraging everyone’s unique skills (rather than trying to do everything yourself), and when possible bringing in dedicated people for the job, yields the best outcomes for everyone.
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