Ep #129: How Your Fear of Micromanaging is Stopping You from Leading like an Executive
You are not micromanaging your team enough.
Now before you say, “But Stacy you told me to get out of the weeds?!”
Yes, that is true.
BUT part of the reason you are in the weeds is because you are not micromanaging your team enough.
Now hear me out. I know you cringe at the idea of being called a micromanager.
But…it’s precisely because you’re so afraid of being seen as a micromanager that you aren’t acting like an executive leader.
So I encourage you to start micromanaging a little more BUT in the RIGHT way.
That’s why in this episode of Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer, I’m going to show you how you can become an amazing leader of your team by not micromanaging details, but micromanaging expectations instead.
Want to receive the recognition you deserve, step into a higher leadership position, get paid for your ideas instead of the hours you put in at work, and enjoy more time, freedom, energy, and joy? Then you need to get your hands on a copy of Promotions Made Easy. Get your copy here.
What You'll Learn:
- The reasons why you’re not micromanaging enough
- The difference between micromanaging details vs micromanaging expectations
- Real life examples of what micromanaging expectations looks like in action
- Why your fear of being the leader you need to be at the executive level may be holding you back from stepping into your authentic power
- How to use incremental delegation to set your team up for success
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- Join my group coaching intensive, Executive Ahead of Time
- Get your copy of my book, Promotions Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Executive Suite
- Go to StacyMayer.com/Strategies to join my email list and receive my email series, Seven Promotion Strategies that Your Boss Won’t Tell You
- Connect with me on LinkedIn
Hello, corporate badasses. Welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career. I'm your host, Stacy Mayer, and super excited, as always, to be here with you again this week.
So today's episode, I'm going to be focusing on something a little bit different. Now, mostly on this podcast you hear from me talking about how to actually maximize your career. How to advance your career, how to get a promotion, how to be successful in those higher level leadership positions, but mostly in the terms of how you're actually going to claim that voice at the table.
In today's episode, I'm going to be sharing something with you about how you can actually be a fantastic executive leader, aka an amazing people manager. And one of the skills that I often bring up inside of The Leadership Table. The Leadership Table is my advanced program. So once women come in through Executive Ahead of Time and learn the process and get themselves into those higher level executive positions, then we transition into more guided coaching where I'm able to coach them literally on anything and everything that has to do with actually managing a team. And one of the things that comes up a lot is how do we deal with specific situations with our people? And I'm going to be talking about three situations in particular that came up recently and give you some examples. So whether you're in an executive level position or you're just starting out as a people manager, you're going to love everything that I talk about in this episode because it's really going to set you up to be incredibly successful for the rest of your career.
Now, I first want to point out a misconception. So many of you have heard of the term micromanager. And if you're listening to my podcast, you probably hate micro managers, with such a vengeance. It's one of the worst things that's ever happened to you. And when you've had a boss who was a micromanager, it was not fun. It was not enjoyable. And why? Because it seemed like they were always hovering over you. They didn't let you be the leader that you wanted to be. It seemed like they were always telling you what to do. So for many of you, being a micromanager or being told that you're micromanaging is the worst thing that you could ever, ever be told from a personal standpoint, from a value standpoint. You don't want to be the leader that's hovering over your team and has to do everything for them. And from a time management standpoint, you don't want to be seen as a micromanager because you actually don't have time. As you become a vice president, a senior vice president, if you're constantly putting out fires, you're not going to be able to lead at the higher level that you need to be leading at. You're not going to be able to make those higher level strategic decisions because you're constantly doing the work of your team. The work that they should be doing. And you feel terrible about it. You don't like what you're doing.
So everything about micromanaging is bad. It has a negative connotation. It feels bad as the receiver. It feels bad if you're being told that as a leader. There's literally no upsides to micromanaging. The other thing about most of the women that I meet and that I work with, they really want to be seen as empathetic and compassionate leaders. They desire that. Even if they're not always great at it, they desire to be a more empathetic leader. It's stereotypically, it's often because we're women and we're sort of wired that way to be very caring. And even if that's not in our Myers-Briggs type as something that we're naturally great at, we have learned to be more empathetic and compassionate. We've also experienced empathy and compassion at the executive level and really appreciated it when we've had leaders that really met us, where we were understood unconscious bias, that were willing to include us in the conversation. All of those great things that empathy and compassion bring out in leaders we value. We understand that it's important. So I'm looking at empathy and compassion in the context of today as being the opposite of micromanaging. We're not being very empathetic and compassionate when we're micromanaging our team members. And so it's like everything goes against us wanting to be a micromanager.
Now, why am I sharing this in such detail with you? It's because of what I'm about to tell you. Dun dun dun.
In today's episode, I would like to show you that you are not micromanaging enough. You are not. You are so afraid of being a micromanager that you're not micromanaging your team enough. And here is why. In terms of micromanaging. You don't want to. And this is not the not micromanaging enough. This is actually true. You don't want to micromanage every single detail of your team. You don't want to do that. And I agree with that. And I don't think you should do more of that. That's in the weeds. It's not great. It doesn't feel good. And it's also not the requirement of the executive level roles. And I have women inside The Leadership Table that struggle with this on a daily basis. Even though they don't want to be micro managers, they feel like their team is not very adequate. So they're constantly managing the details of their team and we work to pull them out of that. So I'm not talking about that. But what the problem is, is that you're so afraid of being a micromanager and not coming off as empathetic and compassionate that you're actually not micromanaging expectations. And I'll say that again. We don't want to micromanage the details of the people who work for us. But it is important to micromanage the expectations for the people who work for us.
And the reason why I know this is because 90% of the time when somebody comes to me with the people problem, it's because they haven't set expectations. They let the person run with it. They wanted to give that person autonomy. They wanted to let them try and fail and all of those great things. But then they actually set themselves up for failure. They gave too much power away. And then that person didn't have clear expectations of their role and the expectations of the outcome. So they weren't able to deliver up to the standards that you have, because you have very high standards, as you should. So you're spending too little time micromanaging expectations. And the coaching that I always give my corporate badasses is: go back in and micromanage a little bit so that you can actually get the results that you want. Stop being so hands off as a leader that you're actually setting up your teammates to fail. Stop being so hands off. And that might require a little bit of micromanaging, temporary micromanaging on your part in order to set them up to be successful in the future. So I'm going to give you a couple of examples.
So one example is already what I've alluded to is that one woman didn't set clear expectations and she sort of let the people on her team run with a project. And then when the time came and they presented it to her, it wasn't good, it wasn't the right direction. And so they had worked really hard on this project. They had put in a lot of hours on this project and then it basically not useful. She couldn't present the information that they had laid out to her. And in her words, she was trying to give them autonomy. She was letting them figure it out on their own. But what she realized in retrospect is that she could have set up some examples ahead of time that really showed the people on her team what she was expecting from them and what a good, positive outcome would look like. Literally lay it out for them an example of a positive outcome. Even if it's slides. This is what I'm looking for you to create. Here's an example of what a good presentation looks like. Now I'm going to let you go run with it. And then you can also set up, until you get to know that person and you know that they're going to deliver a high quality result, you can set up check ins along the way. None of this is micromanaging. Scheduling regular check ins with them to make sure they're set up to be successful is not micromanaging. It's actually incredibly helpful. You can imagine in this particular scenario if she had done that from the beginning, then they could have figured out and course corrected much, much, much, much earlier.
Now, the problem comes in where you're giving them these expectations. You set it all up ahead of time. You want them to follow these guidelines and then you say, oh, we're going to check in on Friday, and then we check in and Friday and it's terrible. And you're like: Oh, I should just do this myself. Now you transition into actually micromanaging where you take back the project and you just finish it all yourself versus continuing to teach them. Is this similar to the example that I gave you and why or why not? And what were you thinking when you created it this other way instead? In all of this, when we have this open level of communication with our employees, we're creating an incredibly inclusive environment. We're actually inviting their voice in. And I think the part where people get hung up is they say, Well, god, I don't have enough time in my day as it is. So how can I spend this much time upfront with them? And then all along the way, teaching them and guiding them? They're my employee. They should have this figured out.
But the truth is, when you don't spend this time up front, then you're constantly fixing the problems. You're actually doing the thing that you're afraid of if you're not being empathetic and compassionate, and you are turning into a micromanager because you're cleaning up the crap at the end of the day. Now, the other thing about expectations is actually saying things to them like: my expectation is for you, next time we do this presentation, for you to run with it. That I'm not going to be meeting with you every week. And really letting them know that so that you're not setting yourself up to do this exact same process every single time. You're basically saying: For now, I'm going to guide you, I'm going to give you parameters so that you really feel set up to be successful. And then once we present this project, then the next time I'm going to pull back a little bit and give you some more lead way. And that gets your employees excited about that.
Another example is, I had a a woman inside of The Leadership Table who was talking about a person. She had received feedback from another executive that's a member of her team wasn't communicating properly to the public. So they weren't presenting in a way that was congruent with what the company valued. They didn't like the way that this employee was presenting to the public. So she had to, quote unquote, fix the situation. And my advice to her was to micromanage the expectations. Again, you don't have to actually micromanage every single detail. We don't have to do it forever. But it is helpful to them to set it this person up for success in the future if we micro-manage expectations from the beginning.
So I advised her to go to that employee and literally say: This is what a great email looks like. Can you write one like that? And for the next couple of weeks before you send out an email, I would like you to send it to me first and then I'm going to coach you on how to do it properly, quote unquote, so that you get better and better at it over time. I also advised her, don't make it a problem. Don't make it like he did something wrong and she has to fix him. And oh my gosh, this is terrible. And he doesn't know how to communicate. Nothing like that. It's coming from that place of like: look, I've been here for ten years. I've had a lot of time communicating to the customers. You're you've only been here for a month or two. And so for now, I'm going to set you up for success by reading your emails and then offering words of advice, and then you're going to do that. Generally speaking, the person on the receiving end is so grateful because you have given them very clear parameters.
They don't have to figure it out on their own and they get to eventually be creative. But if we don't have the framework from the beginning, they are a little too creative in the beginning and then they don't understand the expectations. And essentially we're setting them up to fail. And she loved this idea. She was like: oh, my gosh, I could totally do that. I could totally have a conversation with him where I just laid out, why don't I help you? And from my standpoint, and this is always a good rule of thumb, is ask yourself: if a leader did this for me, would I see it as being grateful or what I see it as this slight to my ability to do the job. And then, of course, if you've had problems with micro managers in the past, your brain might go to: well, I think it'd be awful if somebody was like: send me every email that you send before you send it to the customer. You'd be like: Screw you, I'm not going to do that. That's totally micromanaging. And then you ask yourself: What would I need to hear from that leader so that I didn't feel upset and micromanaged in this particular situation?
So with her, what does she need to tell him that makes him feel like this is okay. That I'm not reprimanding you. You didn't do anything wrong. And a couple of the things I've already alluded to, which is one is why she's telling this to him. I've been here for ten years. I know how to speak to the customer. I have certain expectations of how this is going to go down. And I want to set you up for success. It's basically from the idea that nothing's gone wrong and then put a time frame on it. Let's just try this out as an experiment for three weeks. We don't have to do this forever. This is not my expectation for you, is that you're going to be able to run with these emails. But I just for now, I just want to set it up in this way.
Another example, we've had so many examples, where a woman inside of The Leadership Table, she wasn't giving her the she let her team run with putting together presentations for her CEO. And she's actually supposed to be the middle person and she's actually doing the presentation. And they were supposed to put together data points for her presentation, but they didn't do it, quote unquote right. And then at the last minute, she had to go back and fix everything and change all of the numbers. And she just basically realized, oh, I didn't set expectations ahead of time. And in this particular case, that that was totally true. They didn't know what to expect. But the other thing that was missing here is the overall 'why'.
And so when you're giving a presentation to a CEO, you have to know your audience. You have to know what the CEO wants to hear in that presentation. And depending on how high level you are, if you're in the C-suite or if you're a senior vice president, you're going to have a better idea of what the CEO needs to hear versus your direct reports. That's probably true and it should be true. You have more access to the CEO. You know your audience better. You know what he likes or what he doesn't like. You know how to present to the CEO and your direct report doesn't. And that's not their fault. So the bigger why of this situation that she could have communicated ahead of time is literally like: let me help you up to help you out to be successful. And so I'm going to tell you what the CEO needs to hear from us, and then I want you to go run the numbers and then give them back to me by Tuesday at 5:00. So she set expectations very clearly and then that person could run with it and then she can present that information. And she doesn't have to go backwards and redo everything at the last minute, which is also really terrible.
So for today's episode, I gave you a couple of examples of how we're not micromanaging enough in terms of expectations. But I also really want you to take away from this episode that sometimes our fears of leadership, of being the leader that we really need to be at the executive level are holding us back from being that authentically powerful leader. So we're so afraid of micromanaging that we aren't micromanaging enough. We're so afraid of being not empathetic and compassionate, that we're actually not being empathetic and compassionate because we're giving that person too much leeway and setting them up to fail. We have to understand as leaders that there are certain expectations at the executive level and that we need to step in even if it's temporarily. And this is also going to allow you to give more away.
So I have another example of a woman inside of The Leadership Table who is micromanaging like crazy. She has to know every single detail. She's constantly telling her boss that her her team isn't ready. They're not living up to expectations. She's overwhelmed. She's struggling. And in terms of time management, her boss is constantly telling her she needs to delegate more, she needs to offload some of her responsibilities. And this is because she's at that vice president level and she needs to be able to let go of some of the details. He's actually using the words: you're micromanaging too many of the details right now.
But because she sees micromanaging as an all or nothing approach that you're either micromanaging or you're letting things go. She has no willingness to let things go because she thinks that it's going to fall apart because, maybe rightfully so, she's offloaded some responsibility and things did fall apart. But in terms of letting things go, when you're told that you have to let things go right, you can't micromanage every single detail. The way that we start letting things go is in small, teeny, tiny increments. You can offload an entire project that is not detrimental to what's happening in your role right now. Give somebody something that, if they fail, then it's not going to kill your job. Pick and choose. Be discerning, be decisive. These are two qualities that you need to have as a senior executive leader. You have to show them that you can prioritize. So start to prioritize your workload and figure out what you can hand off. Hand off the two or three things that are part of their strengths, even if that's the stuff that you love to do. Hand it off anyway. Let them run with something, knowing that you can continue to micromanage expectations along the way without micromanaging every single detail.
And that's how we start to let things go incrementally. Now, again, many of you think about incremental delegation as being task delegation. As opposed to: I'm going to offload this entire project to you and let you run with it, knowing that you're going to micromanage expectations all along the way. You're happy to hold their hand in so many ways, but the expectation is that eventually they'll run with it. You're not going to just delegate and forget.
And so I want you to also use today's episode as permission to begin to let go of certain aspects of your role that are very much in the weeds and micromanaging on the detail level. Or perhaps maybe you're doing too much yourself and you're not even handing it off to begin with, knowing that when you hand things off, you can continue to micromanage expectations and this doesn't last forever. You're not going to be required to micromanage expectations every single week, every single week, every single week. Because as you continue to micromanage from an expectation standpoint, it will allow you to pull back as you go.
Alright. So this is my leadership one leadership 2.0 lesson for the day on people management. I hope that you enjoyed it and I look forward to seeing you again next week. Bye!
About Your Host
Hi! I'm Stacy Mayer, a Certified Executive Coach and Promotion Strategist on a mission to bring more diversity to the leadership table by getting 1000 underrepresented corporate managers promoted into senior executive positions each year worldwide.
I help undervalued executives scale to the C-Suite using repositioning strategies that build your confidence and visibility, so you can earn the recognition and support you need from key stakeholders while embodying your unique leadership style.
My podcast “Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer” tackles topics like executive communication, getting more respect in the workplace from challenging bosses and team members, and avoiding the common mistakes that sabotage career advancement.