Business Magazine

Three Steps to Avoid Micromanaging

Posted on the 28 November 2011 by Alanhargreaves @RechargeToday

Help people get on with it.

Here’s a quote from management professor, Henry Mintzberg: “The manager does not leave the telephone, the meeting, or the email to get back to work. These contacts are the work.”

Most managers will relate to that. On the one hand, the flow of interruptions, requests and enquiries is a source of constant frustration. On the other, constant communication is at the center of successfully running any team or any business.

What’s the right perspective on this? 

The thin line between effective delegation and micro-management

Three steps to avoid micromanaging
The art of delegation is assigning the right person to right job. That’s the most effective way of making things happen, and making things happen is what the manager’s job is. That’s the first step.

The second step is to make it very clear what you want done. There are lots of ways to do that but there is one simple formula that always works. 

I learnt this as a young journalist when terse sub-editors would tear up my copy and tell me to re-write it. How, I would ask. Follow the formula, they would say: what, where, when, who? The idea was to produce a news article with a minimum of fuss that left the reader fully informed. 

If you want a fully informed colleague – one who gets on with the job with a minimum of fuss – a similar formula will work. 


  • Who: when the idea comes up, ask, “Who is the right person to do this?” Get people doing what they do best – choose someone who is good at what you want done.
  • Why: explain why this is needed. Tell them how its execution will contribute to the team goal. Tell them why they are the best person to do it and why you trust them to deliver. Let them know you believe in them.
  • What: be very clear about exactly what’s to be done. The end product will always be slightly different, but often better than you expected. Just be as precise as you can about what you expect. That means fewer interruptions to clarify what you meant. They will be able to make their own decisions.
  • When: give them a doable timeframe. Make it clear when it is due and why.

Three steps to avoid micromanaging
The third step is as important as the other two.

Let them get on with it.

It you are wondering where the line is between effective delegation and micromanagement, it’s here.

If you’ve got the first two steps right, give them the chance to do a great job.  They may come back and ask for direction, but that’s just asking you to do your job.  They are looking for a decision. Help them make it but put the ball back in their court. Don’t keep it in yours. That’s just micromanaging. It will hold people back from excelling in their role and it will hold you back from excelling in yours.


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