6 Ways to Squelch the Micro-Manager Within. Tyrant Repellent.

A micro-managing puppet master, have you ever worked for one?  It’s a nightmare.  You will never be right.  You will rarely be listened to.  The nit picking will be never ending.  You start to wonder if you should get permission to go to the bathroom.  My very first job out of college was for a catering firm run by a micro-managing control freakish Tyrant.  The angle of the bread was never quite right, the food portion incorrect, the manner in which we sent orders out was inefficient and any decision I made (did I mention I was the manager?) was misguided. All according to the Tyrant.  I left the job after 18 months.  I was new to the workforce but I was stressed out beyond repair of cigarettes and alcohol.

I’ve seen many micro-managers since leaving that job, but I’m happy to say, I’ve never worked for another Tyrant.  I think I must have radar to spot them when interviewing for a new opportunity.  I’ll speak my mind too freely during the interview and somehow I don’t get a call back.  Hmmm…“she’s too independent,” “thinks for herself too much,”  “that will never do.”

What about looking in the mirror?  Are there places and circumstances in your life where you are a bit of a Tyrant?  Been a helicopter parent?  A controlling friend?  A meddling daughter?  I think there are parts to everyone’s life where we just can’t let go.  My husband micromanages Christmas morning, deliberating who gets what present and when. But hey, it’s once a year.  He can be the elf if he wants.

If you want to control the Tyrant within? Here are some suggestions:

1. Listen.  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” – Stephen Covey.  I might add, “They listen with the intent to be right.” This has Tyrant written all over it.  There was a Tyrant colleague of mine who “asked” for guidance and then did the complete opposite.  He wasn’t listening.  He was paying me lip service.  The first step to earning respect is listening to understand.

2. Accountability.   In Liz Wiseman’s book  Multipliers, she suggests that the manager own 49% of the decision and that the direct report own 51%.  This is a beautiful balance.  This doesn’t take the person who delegated out of the picture but the accountability rests, by the slightest margin, on the direct report.  It’s empowering.  This is your project but your manager is going to be there to fully support you.

3. Challenge. This is frequently described as a stretch goal. This is asking someone to go beyond their normal limitations, to stretch or challenge themselves.  I was just talking to a friend yesterday about a race that is coming up.  There is a half marathon, a 10k, and a 5k.  I was vacillating between the 5k and the 10k.  He challenged me.  “You can do the 10k, Cathy! You’ll be ready in four weeks.”  His confidence inspired me to sign up for the longer distance.  Challenge those around you.

4. Present. As in, be present.  Let go of past and future.  If you are thinking about all your failures (i.e. past relationships, weight gain, enemies) and how this isn’t going to work, you are not present.   If you are calculating what your spouse is going to do the minute he gets home (i.e. dump the garbage, mow the lawn), you are not present. Marching to your own agenda and maintaining your image is not going to inspire those around you.  Tyrant’s live in Paranoia-ville.  Stay clear.

5. Finger pointing. Fall on the sword.  It may not be your fault that the dog got sick on the carpet, just clean it up and move on.  Your assistant messed up the report? My instructions must have been incomplete.  I’ll do better the next time, and so will she.  Maybe the process needs to be tweaked.  This is not the time to call anyone on the carpet.  Casting blame only makes you build walls to your kingdom and breeds distrust.

6. Invest.  It takes time, money and resources to build up those around you.  There are countless avenues to empower the people in your life. A summer camp session for your kid.  Web course for your partner.  An excel class for your assistant.  Encourage and invest in those around to pursue their passion.  They will remember you for your support.  They’ll have your back as well.

So here is your Tyrant repellent.  Try out one or two and see if you don’t reap the rewards.  Be a better leader regardless of your job title.

What do you do to lead others more effectively?

The Engagement Wizard

I think so many businesses, in today’s economy, figure employees “should be happy they have a job.” The truth is that, according to Inc. magazine, 70% of your employees are job hunting. They might smile and nod and laugh at your jokes, and at night they are on CareerBuilder and asking for recommendations on LinkedIn.  Their resumes are up to date and they are ready to jump ship at the first sign of a decent paying job. They aren’t just looking for more money; they want a place that encourages engagement.  As Dan Pink espouses in his book Drive, “autonomy, mastery and purpose” are the ingredients for the Engagement Wizard. Engagement Wizard

The Engagement Wizard is the secret to holding onto those employees who are phoning it in while they search for greener, autonomous pastures. It is far better to employ some engagement tactics to hold onto your veteran employees than to search out a perceived better fit. I realize that some folks are too far gone to turn around and they are the poison in the kool-aid.  Employing a few tactics to create engagement for those who are salvageable, is well worth the effort when you figure that turnover can cost you anywhere from 50 to 200 % of the positions salary (and the replacements likely to cost you 10 to 20% more that the incumbent anyway).

So what are the techniques of the Engagement Wizard? Here are a few:

1. Thumb.  Quit keeping your employees tightly under your thumb.  It’s time to loosen the reigns.  As Dan Pink said at a recent conference, no one ever said “my favorite boss was the guy who breathed down my neck”.  People leave bosses.  If you are dictating an employee’s every movement and deed and watching the clock to make sure they are constantly at the grind stone, your employee will not be engaged. Loosen up your thumbs.

2. Don’t prescribe.  You should not view yourself as the doctor who is prescribing all the answers.  As Liz Wiseman said in her book “Multipliers”, you want to shift from being the Tyrant who has all the answers to the Liberator who is listening.  Listen; don’t talk.  This encourages the autonomy that Dan Pink prescribes.  If your employee is thinking for themselves, they are happier.  If you don’t believe me, tell your partner how to make the bed.  See how that goes over; and if they ever make the bed again.  Don’t prescribe.

3. Learning.  One of the downfalls in the recent economy is the slashing of training budgets.  We keep the Sales and Marketing budget status quo, and cut the non-essential training and development budget.  This, especially for Millennials, is a bad idea.  Employees, who have a “Growth Mindset” as espoused by Carol Dweck, are constantly looking to learn new skills.  “The Investor” as written by Liz Wiseman is the leader who is investing in resources for their team.  Encourage learning so that your employees are gaining “Mastery”.

4. Monkeys.  Delegate the monkey (as in task, project or duty) and check up on their care and feeding.  Leaders need to delegate and give ownership to their team.  This is another trait of Wiseman’s “The Investor”.  You can’t develop Pink’s “Mastery” without letting go of the monkeys.  This doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for checking in on the monkeys, however you shouldn’t be the one filling the water dish.  Delegate the monkeys.

5. Big Picture.  Does your team know the big picture?  Jon Gordon at a recent conference suggested handing out 3 X 5 cards to all your employees and asking what the purpose of the company was.  What would your team answer?  We all need to know the purpose of the organization for which we work.  It is much easier to align with an organization and be engaged when we know what the purpose it.  If you answer, “To make money”, your team is not engaged.  Make sure they know the Big Picture.

6. Non-Commissioned Work.  One of the best examples of how effective autonomy is to creating better outcomes was a study that Pink refers to in his book “Drive”.  They found that in a blind evaluation (they didn’t know which art work was commissioned versus non-commissioned) paintings that were commissioned (i.e. I want it to match my couch, I want flamingos and it needs to be 6 feet wide) were of less quality and creativeness as opposed to non-commissioned work.  So make sure your team has some time to just create instead of keeping them “in the box.”  It’s not practical to have all non-commissioned work all the time, however some time left to one’s own devices is critical to engagement.

Once you’ve found your magic wand, get out of the way.  You will be amazed at what folks can do if they are given the freedom to find their own path.   Find your Engagement Wizard and start waving the magic wand.

Help!

This is another key principle from “The Essential’s of Leadership” developed by Development Dimensions International (DDI), ask for help and encourage involvement.  Sounds simple. But is it? For most, it’s difficult to give up the reins.  Most of us are compensated for being an expert, a technician, highly skilled in creating widgets or leading others.  I think we find it difficult to ask for help when we are supposed to be the go to person.  The answer man.  “Go ask Cathy, she’ll know what to do.”

I’m not suggesting that this is asking for help with bringing in grocery bags or changing the water cooler bottle.  This is more about asking for help and getting involvement on a process, procedure or project.  Maybe it’s asking your child to select a recipe and make it for dinner, having your assistant design a page of a website or putting an ad hoc team together to do some process improvement.   This creates buy in and helps advance everyone’s skills.  The helper gets some mastery in a new area and you get better leadership and delegation skills.  It’s a win-win.

In the book, “Multipliers” by Liz Wiseman, one of the five disciplines of a Multiplier is being The Liberator. The leader that liberates is one who “releases others by restraining yourself.” This can be difficult when most people assume that the highest ranking person in the room is going to make the decision.  Time to sit on your hands and let your child, coworker or partner, flourish.

So how do you get on board?  Here are some steps:

1. Let go.  It’s time to let go.  I know it’s easier to do it yourself.  It’s faster.  More efficient.  Saves time, money and (sometimes) aggravation.  In the long run, it will pay dividends.  One of the hardest steps as a parent was to let my child cut an onion.  Handing a child a sharp cutting blade and a round slippery peeled onion sounded like a formula for disaster.  I had to let go.  If they cut off their finger, we’ll go to the emergency room (I’m happy to say it didn’t happen with either child).  How are they ever going to learn?  The bonus is, I’m not the only one who can chop onions.

2. Drop assumptions.  Unless you are clairvoyant, you don’t know what is really going to happen. Your assistant may have totally botched the last spreadsheet you delegated to him but, hey…he probably learned something and will do just great this time.  Quit predicting disaster and let them fly.  If they fall on their face, they will have learned something and so will you.

3. Get clear.  Make sure you and your helper  are clear about project parameters, deadlines and expectations.  If you tell your coworker that we need a budget for the fund raising project, make sure you explain how to develop the budget, when it’s due and any expectations for the format.  It’s not a good idea to send them off in the dark and hope for the best.  Clearly delegate for the best outcome.

4. Be available.  Once you have delegated, be available for course corrections.  I once asked my daughter to make macaroni and cheese while I attended an evening meeting.  The box asked for 1/4 cup of milk.  Somehow my eleven-year-old thought that meant 4 cups of milk.  The end result was a milky cheesy macaroni soup.  I had not been available to answer questions.  If you can’t be available, it may not be the right time to delegate.

5. Accept.  Be prepared to accept any outcome.  The results might be great or they may be a disaster.  Give encouraging feedback about the results regardless of the outcome.  A colleague of mine would say this is “pumping sunshine.” I’d like to think it’s encouraging their mastery.  I’m not suggesting that you gloss over errors that were made.  My daughter now knows the difference between a 1/4 cup and 4 cups (and we didn’t eat the macaroni).  Better luck next time. At least she tried and now, at nineteen, she can cook on her own.  Accept the results and encourage them to continue.

I realize that there may be things that are beyond someone’s abilities.  If it’s too much of a stretch, set realistic expectations.  My daughter won’t be making a turducken anytime soon.  Heck, that’s beyond my skills.  The important thing is to empower those around you and watch them blossom.

How do you encourage involvement?

Tyrant Repellent

Have you ever worked for one?  It’s a nightmare.  You will never be right.  You will rarely be listened to.  The nit picking will be never ending.  You start to wonder if you should get permission to go to the bathroom.  My very first job out of college was for a catering firm run by a micromanaging control freakish Tyrant.  The angle of the bread was never quite right, the food portion incorrect, the manner in which we sent orders out was inefficient and any decision I made (did I mention I was the manager?) was misguided. All according to the Tyrant.  I left the job after 18 months.  I was new to the workforce but I was stressed out beyond repair of cigarettes and alcohol.

I’ve seen many micromanagers since leaving that job, but I’m happy to say, I’ve never worked for another Tyrant.  I think I must have radar to spot them when interviewing for a new opportunity.  I’ll speak my mind too freely during the interview and somehow I don’t get a call back.  Hmmm…“she’s too independent,” “thinks for herself too much,”  “that will never do.”

What about looking in the mirror?  Are there places and circumstances in your life where you are a bit of a Tyrant?  Been a helicopter parent?  A controlling friend?  A meddling daughter?  I think there are parts to everyone’s life where we just can’t let go.  My husband micromanages Christmas morning, deliberating who gets what present and when. But hey, it’s once a year.  He can be the elf if he wants.

If you want to control the Tyrant within? Here are some suggestions:

1. Listen.  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” – Stephen Covey.  I might add, “They listen with the intent to be right.” This has Tyrant written all over it.  There was a Tyrant colleague of mine who “asked” for guidance and then did the complete opposite.  He wasn’t listening.  He was paying me lip service.  The first step to earning respect is listening to understand.

2. Accountability.   In Liz Wiseman’s book  Multipliers, she suggests that the manager own 49% of the decision and that the direct report own 51%.  This is a beautiful balance.  This doesn’t take the person who delegated out of the picture but the accountability rests, by the slightest margin, on the direct report.  It’s empowering.  This is your project but your manager is going to be there to fully support you.

3. Challenge. This is frequently described as a stretch goal. This is asking someone to go beyond their normal limitations, to stretch or challenge themselves.  I was just talking to a friend yesterday about a race that is coming up.  There is a half marathon, a 10k, and a 5k.  I was vacillating between the 5k and the 10k.  He challenged me.  “You can do the 10k, Cathy! You’ll be ready in four weeks.”  His confidence inspired me to sign up for the longer distance.  Challenge those around you.

4. Present. As in, be present.  Let go of past and future.  If you are thinking about all your failures (i.e. past relationships, weight gain, enemies) and how this isn’t going to work, you are not present.   If you are calculating what your spouse is going to do the minute he gets home (i.e. dump the garbage, mow the lawn), you are not present. Marching to your own agenda and maintaining your image is not going to inspire those around you.  Tyrant’s live in Paranoia-ville.  Stay clear.

5. Finger pointing. Fall on the sword.  It may not be your fault that the dog got sick on the carpet, just clean it up and move on.  Your assistant messed up the report? My instructions must have been incomplete.  I’ll do better the next time, and so will she.  Maybe the process needs to be tweaked.  This is not the time to call anyone on the carpet.  Casting blame only makes you build walls to your kingdom and breeds distrust.

6. Invest.  It takes time, money and resources to build up those around you.  There are countless avenues to empower the people in your life. A summer camp session for your kid.  Web course for your partner.  An excel class for your assistant.  Encourage and invest in those around to pursue their passion.  They will remember you for your support.  They’ll have your back as well.

So here is your Tyrant repellent.  Try out one or two and see if you don’t reap the rewards.  Be a better leader regardless of your job title.

What do you do to lead others more effectively?