In around a month we are going to be launching a new free product on our website – Unlocking Team Work Success – 7 Team Killers. As loyal readers I thought I’d give you a sneak preview of part of a chapter. Each chapter will have a description of the Team Killer, a survey for you and the team to take to work out how prevalent this team killer is for you and a case study to explore real life solutions.

Here is part of the chapter. We would love to hear your feedback so we can make it even more helpful and relevant. Thanks in advance.

I keep hearing the same things from leaders and those they lead. I keep hearing about leaders who find it difficult to let go, not micro-manage and trust their team to deliver on certain projects.

I was hearing it so often in my work with leaders and their teams I thought I’d do a bit of research on the issue again. I have nearly 100 books on leadership on my bookshelves. I found chapters about developing people, delegation and coaching them but I couldn’t find one article or chapter that dealt with this issue at the core of what I see or believe is happening.

Let’s describe the problem and then explore the true solutions.

Have you ever been to a football match (of any kind). Picture it. I heard a comedian once decsribe that scene as 22 people who desperately need a break, watched by 50000 people who desperately need to exercise.

Some teams operate like this. There are many possible causes. Let’s look at the big 3:

  1. Leader relying on one person too much
  2. The leader is micromanaging
  3. The team is being passive and not engaging.

This is often a chicken and egg issue. Which one comes first is sometimes hard to tell.

  1. Relying on a star player too much

There will always be ‘stars’ on every team. People who perform, cause no fuss, are proactive, help others, and are knowledgeable. They are your ‘go to people’. However, sometimes these stars are subtly part of the problem. In an effort to reduce their workload and have less problems, leaders can throw the ball to these ‘stars’ too often, relying on them too much.

The effect of this can be that other team members feel like spectators. They don’t feel as valued or important. They often don’t have the insight to see how their attitude or lack of skills are contributing to the situation. The situation with employees who might already be disengaged and unmotivated is exacerbated.

  1. Leader Playing the Star and Micromanaging

Another form of this issue is when the leader is the star. They know everything, approve everything and are the busiest person on the team. They become the bottleneck.

Great leaders often have a great vision of growth and success for their organisation and teams. However, Jim Collins asserts, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant”. He calls this phenomenon of a “genius with a thousand helpers,” stating that those leaders may often become great business people without ever creating a great teams or organisation. The concept of rallying and depending on a singular source of brilliance, vision and capability is not what great teams or companies are made of.

Signs of the Star Manager

Team leaders who micromanage show some of the following signs. In general, micromanages:

  • Resist delegating.
  • Immerse themselves in overseeing the projects of others.
  • Start by correcting tiny details instead of looking at the big picture.
  • Take back delegated work before it is finished if they find a mistake in it.
  • Discourage others from making decisions without consulting them.

What’s Wrong With Micromanaging?

If you are getting results by micromanaging and keeping your nose in everyone’s business, why not carry on?

Micromanages often affirm the value of their approach with a simple experiment: They give an employee an assignment, and then disappear until the deadline. Is this employee likely to excel when given free rein? Possibly, if the worker has exceptional confidence in his or her abilities, but most likely no.

Let’s explore 4 reasons that managers don’t delegate effectively beyond the normal…this is how you do it. (See my last post “                 “ for that explanation)

Fundamentally I don’t believe managers don’t plan to be hoarders of work and information. I think most managers know HOW to delegate, but many struggle to delegate because of emotional not technical reasons. Let me explain.

Under micromanagement most workers become timid and tentative – possibly even paralyzed. “No matter what I do,” such a worker might think to himself, “It won’t be good enough.” Then one of two things will happen: Either the worker will ask the manager for guidance before the deadline, or he will forge ahead, but come up with an inadequate result because the manager has certain ideas in their head that hasn’t been shared.

In either case, the micromanage will interpret the result of his experiment as proof that, without his constant intervention, his people will flounder or fail.

The second issue is that often a manager has got to where they are because they are very competent. They are good at certain tasks. Maybe naturally or maybe through trial and error, they have developed certain skills. This means that they have developed particular methods and standards. Everyone else is measured against these methods and standards. It is no accident that the manager thinks that no one can do it as well as they can, they probably can’t. Not yet anyway.

The third issue that manager face is the emotional issue of letting go of things they enjoy and have got some recognition from doing. Emotionally to let go of doing certain things may mean not getting the affirmations that you enjoy.

The fourth issue is that managers don’t know how to entrust others with their reputation. This where it gets really scary for many managers. They know they ‘should’ delegate but they feel acutely that the outcome of a particular project or meeting etc will reflect on them and their competence. The thought of handing over their reputation is too big a risk for many managers. Emotionally they want to feel in control. It makes perfect sense why many managers know why they should delegate and entrust their people more but rarely give their team real responsibilities.

But do these results verify the value of micromanagement – or condemn it? A truly effective manager sets up those around them to succeed. Micromanages, on the other hand, prevent employees from making – and taking responsibility for – their own decisions. But it’s precisely the process of making decisions, and living with the consequences that cause people to grow and improve.

3.Employees being a Passive Spectator

People who operate out of a passive mode back away from conflict and are difficult to draw out. An example might be someone who is very smart and has an idea of how to solve a problem but stays silent during the team meeting.

Taking the path of least resistance by tuning out, ignoring, avoiding, backing away and withdrawing from people and situations rather than dealing with them head-on is a major tactic of people who rely on this style of interaction.

The belief that many people have is that we prevent making problems worse if we avoid them. I wonder if that is true? Sometimes things do resolve themselves. It takes wisdom to know when to make an issue of something and when not too. Sometimes it right to walk away, it takes courage and strength to do it.

What we need to be is honest with ourselves about when we are being passive, fearful and showing cowardice. Some of the indicators might be: When we hold grudges, get internally resentful, complain to other people, avoid working with that person again, get cranky with ourselves because we said yes, internally rehearse a speech we would love to make but know we wont. In reality there are a lot of times where avoiding situations or people making things worse over time.

Good managers empower their employees to do well by giving opportunities to excel; Bad managers disempower their employees by hoarding those opportunities. And a disempowered employee is an ineffective one – one who requires a lot of time and energy from his supervisor.

Critical Employee Actions:

Set Your Limits: As adults, we all have the power to make our own choices and we have the obligation to assume responsibility for those choices. No one will treat us any better than we expect to be treated. You may have experienced things in your life over which you had no control, but guess what? YOU can control how you allow those experiences to define you as a person.

Fearlessly setting boundaries means identifying healthy and ethical principles upon which to base your life, and making sure that how you treat others and are treated by others is within the framework of those principles.

This allows others to be clear on your expectations and desires. It also creates more internal permission, for you, if someone does violate your preferences to confront that person or situation more confidently.

Critical Leadership Action:

  1. Avoid being a micromanage and solo performer by identifying where and why you are most likely to withhold responsibilities from others:
  2. Identify what the strengths of the people in your team are
  3. Build the capacity intentionally of all employees
  4. Engage and help passive communication styles to express.
  • Is it a skills issue – knowing how to delegate effectively?
  • Is it an emotional issue – letting go of ‘your way’, the affirmations you have been getting, or giving over ‘control’ of your reputation to others?

If you lead people who are passive spend time to ask the person what they would like in the areas such as:

  • How they experience respect?
  • What recognition looks like for them?
  • Ideally how they would like to participate in team meetings to feel that they are included and valued?
  • What being proactive in their role looks like to them?

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