Micromanaging: The Secret to Getting Employees to Love You More
In 2012, 75% of my clients said they called me for career coaching when they could no longer take micromanagement. Some felt like children, others like puppets. All said succumbing to a boss who is constantly checking in became a major time guzzler. Not one client said micromanagement made them want to stay and work harder. Micromanaging means paying too much attention to details. It usually has a negative connotation, yet these coaching clients agree there are certain details that should not be ignored.
Detail 1: Know what they are most proud of – My clients are vocal and often repeat anecdotes of their big wins. As one said, “You don’t get to my position by not speaking up.” Many have served their industries for a decade, making it easy for managers to know a top player’s big wins. It’s harder to recall smaller wins, or ones that happened earlier on. Yet, if you pay more attention to those details, you will go from being a forgettable manager to an unforgettable people leader. I have found that accomplishments A-team players recall most fondly have less to do with current roles and more to do with amazing (sometimes more personal) triumphs. A client once said he was prouder of his new self-learned methodologies than of achievements during his 10 years as head of a Fortune 100 firm’s software engineering department. Another client gloats about his mentees’ successes, but doesn’t gloat (as much) when speaking of his work increasing his employer’s market share in a new territory.
Detail 2: Pick up on hints – There are thousands of career-assessment tools. I offer one that provides step-by-step guidance toward pursuing interests and skills. I have assessed clients who have gained clarity around talents they want to retain versus skills they no longer wish to use. Some have learned to see online habits as windows into deeper interests. After administering this tool to professionals in industries like education, law, and technology, I have devised a shorthand assessment you can use to figure out similar information. Read your employee’s résumé to uncover his interests. What was his undergraduate major? Few work in fields related to their college majors, yet many wish they did. I coached a former graphic designer working as a grant writer who wished to return to design. This scenario is common. In lieu of a résumé, go to LinkedIn and look for your employee’s interests or causes he supports. Also understand what extracurricular roles your employees play within your firm. One client led wellness seminars in a parenting organization. Today, he works for a health and wellness company. Expect to lose employees if you forget details of their true interests.
Detail 3: Know their tenure – I tell clients that they are not stuck, though the reality is that most of them actually are. I’ve coached middle managers in their 30s and 40s. Many of them feel duped because promotions they were promised are not on the horizon. One professional at a CPG firm was “promised” she would manage a multimillion-dollar brand after five years of service. As a result of poor economic conditions, she is still waiting for that promotion seven years later. You will eventually need to offer more exciting opportunities instead of promotions or you will risk attrition. At CPGs, I have found that this marker is five years, while it’s closer to two in consulting. You should know how long key employees have been in their roles and know how long they want to stay there. You must never lose sight of this detail; trust me, they do not. Many polish their résumés after these critical milestones. Another client working in the car industry reminded his manager how long he had committed to his role—that conversation was four months ago with zero progress to date. He is now disengaged and job hunting. I know there are times when managers cannot fund promotions or authorize transfers. However, my clients say they have had the strongest ties to bosses who knew the calendar details of their tenure while still acknowledging their employees’ self-constructed timelines.
The most influential professionals within Fortune 100 companies see a brighter side to being micromanaged. Their favorite bosses paid excessive attention to the details of their wins, passions, and letdowns. The biggest challenge is that your top talent is unlikely to tell you directly for fear of later termination.