The Fine Line Between Helping and Micromanaging

Nobody likes a boss that micromanages. Sweeping statement, I know, but one I am comfortable making.

If you have ever worked for a boss who line-edits your written communications or fine-combs your Powerpoint presentations, you know.

If you are the leader of a sizeable unit, I feel for you. Taking a perfectly laissez-faire approach about the endeavors of your squad representatives doesn’t provide them and is very likely to save you anxious and wondering. You’re likely to become the president who isn’t actually leading.

What is a supportive rhythm for hiring with your unit? Especially if some of your unit representatives are less seasoned than you might like and you don’t wholly trust their ability to tackle a complex challenge- how do you define them up for success without micromanaging them?

I hire professional staff and then micromanage them until they walk out the door.“


A recent clause in Harvard Business Review- How to Help( Without Micromanaging) by Colin M. Fisher, Teresa M. Amabile and Julianna Pillemer( HBR January/ February 2021)- got me thinking about this perennial quagmire again. The columnists hail from University College London’s School of Management, Harvard Business School and NYU’s Stern School of Business. They have depleted the last 10 years studying how effective leaders offer help without micromanaging.

Their research shows 3 specific strategies will help you to be a hands-on boss who doesn’t micromanage 😛 TAGEND

Time your help so it comes when people are ready for it. Clarify that your capacity is to be a helper. Align the tempo of your involvement- its strength and frequency- with people’s specific needs.

Reads nicely, right? In my own experience as an Executive Coach, this is not as easy as it announces. Helping well involves, as the authors recommend, situational astuteness and tact. And the ability to slip in and out of different ways of inhabiting your leadership role. Here’s what I mean.

1. Make HELPING Part of the Lingo

Talk about the notion of helping others to be successful. Make it explicit. Explain that help comes in many forms and moves in many different directions. Demonstrate that you are not a know-it-all boss or the smartest party in the chamber. Talk about how you receive assistant- from your own boss, from a coach or an advisory team. Show how asking for help and receiving facilitate are not a sign of weakness.

Approach your squad members for help when they may be able to do so. Live the notorious Steve Jobs quote: It doesn’t make sense to hire smart-alecky parties and then tell them what to do. We hire smart-alecky people so they can tell us what to do. These are all rooms in which you create a culture of cure whatever it is you helping your team is right that- HELP , not micromanagement.

2. Be in Relationship More Often

Think of betting beyond the traditional “standing 1:1 meeting” with a member organization participating in your squad. You guide the danger of having a predictable if unexciting exertion cadence with this team member- and then you abruptly swoop in and poise in the middle of a recognized crisis. Anxiety positions rise, as do the endless possibilities for micromanagement.

Most of the executives I help opt for a different date wording with their unit representatives. More frequent suddenly announces. Impromptu, unscheduled. Texting. Just to say hi. The schmooze can be about work or personal matters. 10 times or less. The purport is not to check up on your team member. No, you choose to stay in relationship. The affinity is informal and unforced. Needs for help and support have a forum to easily emerge. They have a place where they can come forth in a timely manner.

I don’t micromanage the interiors. People ask me to and I say no. I don’t want to control everything.“

Frank Gehry/ Architect

3. Do NOT Preemptively HELP

You mean well. Your unit is about to embark on a critical project, and you want them to be prepared for everything that might derail things. You muster for a session, and you “lay it all on them” in this meeting. Cover all possible scenarios. You give the team know what you have done in the past when “things went wrong.” You shower your squad members with gratuities and suggestion. You’re proud of how pro-active you are.

You think you’re serve. Please note: You’re helping when no help is needed hitherto. You have created fear when no startle has chimed yet. You’re micromanaging before any of this micromanagement is possibly authorized. Thinking of potential challenges can be useful, of course. Let you team drive this conversation , not you. Otherwise, it is more likely a client of your Ego extending amok. Stop yourself, please.

4. Contract Your assistance with your Team Member

If you notice that in the midst of a project one or various unit members are struggling, balk the implore to swoop in and take over. Consider a more collaborative approach. Tell your unit members what you observe and brainstorm possible ways of addressing a challenge or bottleneck. Make it a “together” conversation.

If you have an idea for getting involved in a hands-on way, propose it. Be clear about the depth of the involvement you propose and the duration of it. Research to see if the idea of your assistance resonates. Likelihoods are, your crew members will feel a bit of inner pressure to accept your help. Understood. When they do, however, you have established explicit boundaries for your assistance. You have consciously contracted. And you have not become the jerk-boss who made over because, well, you could.

The urge to help is primal, universal and timeless. Honor it. But delight get your Ego out of the way. Be clear that at times helping might symbolize countenancing the other person to learn from constructing corrects. At other hours it might imply some in-the-moment coaching. Or sending a team member to a training class. Hovering is not help. Constant improvement is not helping.

Go and help well. If you have any inclinations toward micromanagement , notice how much more pleasant it is for you to lead without micromanaging. Notice what a comfort it actually is. And how so much better realized your lead is.

So enjoy. Be relieved.

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