Pleading Guilty to Micromanaging

Nov 17, 2020

Have you ever been micromanaged before?

The majority of us have experienced being micromanaged at some point in our lives whether at home, in school, or at work. Too much oversight or too much direction from a leader, boss, parent, coach, or whoever it may be, can make us feel stifled and unmotivated. While many of us can’t stand being micromanaged, have you ever wondered if you micromanage others without even realizing it?

In today’s episode, I discuss how to tell if you are a micromanager or “accidental diminisher”. I explain what I’ve learned about accidentally micromanaging from Liz Wiseman books and articles and what helped me to recognize when I was accidentally diminishing others’ capabilities.

Tune in to learn what a multiplier and a diminisher are, the five signs that you might be an accidental diminisher, and how you can become a multiplier!

In This Episode You Will Learn 

  • If there is a time and place for micromanaging (3:14)
  • What “multipliers” and “diminishers” are from the book Multipliers (5:09)
  • The five signs that you might be an accidental diminisher (7:50)
  • Three ways we can become a multiplier instead of being an accidental diminisher (15:21)
  • The Stephen Covey video that helped me explain expectations (18:46)
  • How you can improve your organization even if you work for a diminisher (21:56)

Resources Mentioned 

Let’s connect!


Clint Hoopes:

This is the Flavor of Leadership Podcast. I am your host, Clint Hoopes. Together, we explore the unique blend of leadership wisdom that helps top leaders consistently achieve work goals, develop personally and find fulfillment with family. Let's get started.

Welcome to episode three of the Flavor of Leadership Podcast. Today, we're going to be discussing if you are a micromanager without even realizing it. Have you ever been micromanaged before? I know I have. I know it's been one of those things that I believe most people have experienced at some point in their lives, whether in their work or school or at home. All of us have felt like we've had too much oversight or so much direction from a leader, a parent, a teacher, a coach, whatever it might be, that we feel almost stifled, right?

We feel like, "Man, I would be able to fly and make things happen if I just wasn't stifled so much by whoever it is, fill in the blank." I think about how I felt in times where I felt overly managed or micromanaged by someone and it doesn't feel good. You feel like there's so much more you could accomplish if that one thing. So how did you approach your boss or your coach, your parent when this happened? Or did you not say anything, just suffer through it? Or did you just quit? A lot of people do. 

I think sometimes we lose good employees at work and wonder what happened to them, wonder why they quit. They gave some reason about, oh, I got another job and I made a few dollars more an hour, it was closer to home, whatever it is. I'll tell you rarely are those the real reasons why people leave. I know they're the reasons they give and this is probably the reason they ultimately finally was the thing that kind of pushed over the edge. But if you're creating a great culture at work and you're a great person to work for, people aren't generally looking and they don't generally leave for something small. 

So how long did you stay when you were micromanaged? Have you ever wondered if you do the same thing to people you work with without even realizing it? Or do you do this to your own family or friends, any of those different places? I know that I have. Even when I've been super aware of these things in my life, I still find myself doing this at times. 

So is there ever a time that it's okay to micromanage or have an incredible amount of oversight? Does it ever have its place? I guess it can. There are some times. I guess it depends on where you're at. I mean, if you were a surgeon and you were in a surgery, gosh, and something needs to be done in a very specific way, yeah, that'd probably may makes sense to have an incredible amount of oversight, making sure that it's done exactly right. Every step of the process, every single piece cannot be done out of place. 

But in that case, is it even called micromanaging at that point? I don't know that it is. It's kind of expected for what it is. So really, depending on the industry, depending on the task, the time, whatever it is, will determine to what extent direction is needed. So I'm not speaking about when someone is brand new in a role and they need to perform a very specific task at their new job. You need to show them exactly how to do it, because if they don't, it's not going to be done correctly. It really makes a difference that's it done very specifically that way. That's okay. That's okay to provide that type of oversight. 

Now, once the person has learned though, and they're capable, the goal is set, the clear measure is set. At that point, we should be able to let someone loose. Let them go without monitoring every single step of their process so we can help them know what the goal is without trying to help show them the means, so to speak, or every single piece, just like we spoke of in episode two. 

So one book I found that actually explains this very well and they don't really... They don't actually use the word micromanager that I recall in this book, but they use the term diminisher, which I believe is similar to a micromanager in a lot of ways, but even greater in its effect. So the book is called Multipliers. I love the whole title. It's called Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. Now, this is by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown. So I put the title to this book in the show notes as well. 

Now, you want to find out, okay, do my actions, do they multiply or do they diminish? So me as a leader, do my actions multiply or diminish? So first let's talk about what multipliers are. So from the book, multipliers are genius makers. Everyone around them gets smarter and more capable. People may not become geniuses in the traditional sense, but multipliers invoke each person's unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius, innovation, productive effort and collective intelligence. Sounds pretty great. I love that. 

I know I want to be a multiplier and so that my people can get those type of results. In the book they say in their measurements that they did with leader, they found that multiplied employees gave nearly two times more than the average employees that didn't have a multiplier as a leader. So up to two times more, that's incredible. Absolutely incredible to think that you could get two times as much out of your employee and that they would actually be happier doing it. That's the amazing part. So you, as a leader, get to determine whether you're a multiplier or a diminisher.

So, multiplier, they're the genius makers. So a diminisher, what should that be? That is literally the exact opposite. They are someone who diminishes, someone who stifles, someone who does just the opposite of multiplying, so you'd actually get less out of someone, less than they're capable of. Instead of maximizing what someone can do, you're actually diminishing what they can do. This is where I believe that the diminisher is very closely related to what we think of as a micromanager. 

So in an article as a followup to the book, Multipliers, Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown actually talk about accidental diminishers in even greater detail. They say that intentional or not, the effect of a diminisher on team members was the same. People were unable to enlist their full brain power to the challenges at hand. Perhaps you are a diminisher, and even worse, perhaps you aren't aware that you are one. Now, I believe that many of you, if you're listening to this, if you are a diminisher at times, you're likely not trying to be. It's accidental. It's not intentional. But the beauty is once you recognize it, you can be an intentional multiplier and be able to help get even more out of your employees and help them be even happier. 

So they give five signs that you might be accidentally diminishing your people and so I'm going to share those today. So the first one that they shared, the first sign that you might actually,  accidentally rather, be diminishing your people is here's the first one. You want more people to report to you. You feel like you can do everything better than anybody else. You feel like everyone needs to report to you because you're the only one that can give them what they need to be able to succeed.

So if you find that this is the case for you, you may get to the point where you think everyone wants to be reporting direct with you, but you may actually find that you're not getting the most out of your people, and that some of these people that you have reporting to you, it may not be best to have the report to you. There may be somebody else that's even better for these people. So take a step back and find out are you doing this? Do you have people that are reporting to you that shouldn't be? Or are you trying to get people to report to you more and more, when really it might be more appropriate for someone else? Once again, depending on where you're at in leadership, this may or may not be an issue. 

Number two, you've got the gift of gab. So you're passionate, you're articulate, and you may take up a lot of space in a meeting. Maybe you just like to think out loud. So those are the things that happen. You always have ideas and you want to share them with everybody. You may find that since you are the leader, those around you can't even express their own opinions because you have a constant stream of ideas flowing, they can't even get in word, or if they do, they're afraid that their ideas won't be as good as yours. So instead of having your enthusiasm be infectious like you thought, you may actually be stifling those around you without even knowing it. So time to be aware. 

The next one is actually very similar to number two with the gift of gab. But it's you're a visionary. You're a visionary. You think of yourself as a big thinker, someone that can work through strategic issues and help people, help them see the vision of what needs to happen. Now, don't be confused where if you're a leader, you very clearly need to have the vision for your people, for your department, for your company. Whatever your scope is as a leader, you need to ensure that your people know what your vision is. You must have that. There's nothing wrong with that. It's actually a necessity. 

But what you can't do is once you've established what the vision needs to look like, you can't have every person that's managing parts of the process to get there, you can't manage every step of the way. So when you find that you are trying to push your vision for each little tiny piece of the process upon other leaders or upon those that work for you, you may actually be stifling them. They may be unhappy because their ideas are never able to come up, or you may actually not be getting the most out of those people. 

You may actually be looking at them thinking, "How can they never have ideas? Or they need all of my ideas. They need all of these things or they will never move forward." But in the end they may be so busy just trying to keep up with all of the ideas and the things that you want to make sure it's exactly the way you want that they never are able to use their own genius, right? 

All right. Next one, number four is you are a rapid responder. Now, there's nothing wrong with making decisions quickly and decisively when it's appropriate. But are you doing the same thing for those that you lead? Are you making decisions for them immediately and quickly without giving them a chance to give input? Are you making decisions that impact the entire organization without, and just quickly and reactively making those decisions, even when it would be appropriate to gather information from those that report to you or from those that work with you? 

Something else to consider, nothing wrong with making decisions quickly and decisively when it's appropriate, but consider, are there times we should be getting... We can get the feedback from others and come up with a better decision and also get more buy-in from those that work with us.

Number five, you jump in to rescue people. So find that you're a rescuer and you jump in constantly trying to help those that can't do it quite as well as you can to fix whatever they're doing, rescue them when they're going to fail and constantly jumping from one thing to the next, putting out those fires and making sure that they don't fail. You may actually, once again, without even realizing it, be diminishing their capability.

You think that you're helping and you're being a great leader by helping, a servant leader, a leader that is there willing to do whatever it takes to help in, help out, but in the end you may actually be diminishing your people and not allowing them to succeed and without letting them be able to fail at times. Sometimes that's the right thing, sometimes that's okay, depending on the scope of what's at hand, right? So sometimes you may not need to jump in and rescue people. So some of those may resonate more with you than others and that's great. 

Next one. So those are the five that you might be a diminisher at times. So how do you fix it then, right? For an accidental diminisher and some of those things we talked about above resonate with you, how do we fix it? Now, here are three more ideas that come from Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown about how we can become a multiplier instead of an accidental diminisher. 

First one, shift from giving answers to asking questions. We've all heard the saying, you have one mouth and two ears for a reason, right? We're supposed to listen more. So ask a question and be quiet and listen. Some of these advice is the most simple and sometimes it's the things that we've heard over and over again and I believe this is one of them. Don't be so worried about having the answer. The best leaders don't always have all of the answers. They're the ones that have the best questions, right? 

Not leading questions, not questions where you're trying to lead them carefully to exactly where you want them to get to get the answer for you, but questions that will allow them to come up with the right answer for them, right? Don't continuously sell your vision and exactly what you want, help them figure out where they're supposed to get. So be a leader that can ask the right questions. 

Next one is dispense your ideas in small doses. So up above in the five ideas of where you might be a diminisher, if you have the gift of gab, you have to watch this even more closely. Dispense your ideas in small doses. Don't feel like you need to give everything all at once. Don't feel like you need to take over and give them all of the answers. Small doses, a little here, a little there. Your people are smart. They're more capable than you often realize. Let them continue to work without having you spell out every single and be that micromanager. 

Number three, expect complete work, right? People want to be accountable so make them accountable for what they do. Make them accountable to the team, make them accountable to you, make them accountable to themselves and help them know what's clear. In the episode two, we talked about clear measures. Use what you learned in that episode to know how to set clear expectations for people, and then make sure that people are held accountable to it. If they need help, you can help them, you can guide them, you can ask better questions. But in the end, they'll get more and more capable and be able to trust that you trust them. 

That's what they're looking for very often is they want to know that it's okay for them to express things on their own, especially if in the past you've been giving them the answers or been very opinionated on what something should look like. This isn't just going to flip overnight. This isn't something that all of a sudden they're going to respond immediately. It's going to take time of you asking more questions and helping them see that you're okay with what they come up with.

Okay. So if you're an accidental diminisher, let's use these steps to help figure out how to push back against that. Once again, links to those books and that article that I shared are all in the show notes. Last week we spoke of measurement like we've alluded to, and today we talked about how a micromanager needs to ensure that things are clear and then he needs to step back. So one of the great videos that I found on this is actually from Stephen Covey. So Stephen Covey, he is the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the great leadership books and self-improvement books, as well as Stephen Covey is one of the great leadership speakers.

This little video that I'm sharing in the show notes actually gives an even more clear view of how this all works with setting clear expectations. It's called Green and Clean. So Green and Clean goes through and talks about how Stephen Covey when he had a young boy and his young boy was expected to mow the lawn. So Stephen Covey was very clear with his boy about expressing what a green lawn looked like and what a clean lawn looked like and actually went so far as to show him his neighbor's lawn saying, "This is green and this is clean. There's no trash and it's green. It's cut perfectly. It looks nice."

He helped explain to him how to do it, what needs to happen, but expressed to him, "Look, the result is that we want is green and clean. I don't care how you'd do it, but you make it happen." So it's a great little video that I think you'll find can be helpful to you. I've actually shown it to many of my different teams and in helping to show them, hey, I'm going to try doing better at this. Let me help you. This is what I expect. However far you are in this in and have these expectations with your team, this can be helpful. 

I even shared this with my family. I shared it with my little kids. We were struggling at our house with having the kids do their chores or doing their chores well, and I loved it. So we showed the video and helped to show each of the kids, all right, this is what green looks like for you. So we said, "Look, this is green and clean for you. So you're making your bed, this is what it looks like. It needs to be blanket needs to be pulled up, the pillows needs to look like this, et cetera. Okay, this is what it looks like. Now, you go and do this each day." So it's fun to see how my kids actually responded. 

It was funny actually after we watched it, the next day when my little boy, he was four at the time, he's five now, he had made his bed and it was so funny after he finished, he was so excited that he did it, he yelled, "Green and clean. Green and clean." It was really fun to see that even at a young age, I didn't think he would even remember it, I was really sharing it for some of the older kids and he totally got it. He got it. He knew what green and clean was and he knew that when he made his bed and it looked just right, that he was accomplishing the goal. He knew that he had accomplished it and I love that. I love that. We can do the same thing for our people at work, as well as at home.

So one more word here about this. Even if you work for a diminisher or someone that diminishes at times, you don't need to do the same for your people. You can improve this and it will make an impact to your people and to your organization. The more you do it, the more your people will be better with the people they work with. Everyone in your organization will be better because of it. You got this. 

Thanks for joining me on this week's episode of the Flavor of Leadership Podcast. If you enjoyed what you heard, please share it with a friend. If you haven't already, subscribe, rate and review the show on your favorite podcast player. If you have any questions, comments or feedback for us, you can reach me directly at Thanks for listening.