Self Management - Not Micromanagement

One of the hardest parts of leadership is figuring out how to get your company, team, or fellow executives to work without constant interference. While executive personalities do enjoy many aspects of management and leadership, that doesn’t mean they want to spend every minute giving specific directions or checking in.

Instead, you want to create an environment where everyone is capable, self-motivated, and accountable for their own work and duties. But how do you reverse the need for micromanagement and help your team or employees help themselves?

You cultivate self-management. Here’s how:

1. It Starts With You

It can be hard to admit that you’re part of the micromanagement cycle, but to fix this problem you’ll have to set the example. The best way to do this is expect that there will be a learning curve, and that this project will take time. From there, work to:

  • Be as clear in your communication with your team as possible
  • Create systems or use new tools to delegate/assign work clearly
  • Schedule consistent check-ins and don’t miss them
  • Ask your team to solve problems without you
  • Let them make mistakes
  • Make yourself available at specific times to create structure

You may also find that other methods work, such as discussing your team’s need for increased autonomy. You can ask your team what they need from you to be more independent, or what they think isn’t working. Being open and communicative is the best way to ensure your team won’t fall apart the second you step back.

2. Appoint “Secondary” Managers

The key to self-management is knowing that tasks are being delegated properly and that employees know who they can go to with questions. If you are hoping to work on higher level operations and don’t want to be distracted daily, find a team member or employee you trust.

Ask that person to be your liaison between you and the rest of the team, with specific check-in times to create more structure for you. You can also delegate employees to work together in smaller groups, letting them choose the secondary manager amongst themselves.

Whichever works best for your team, the idea is to decrease the number of people you directly manage.

3. Build Your Buffers

As your team or employees readjust to their new self-management, it may be ideal to extend deadlines and lower outcome expectations for a time. Some executives may “phase out” from different teams or employees, keeping their regular interactions with only high-needs employees or projects. This might look like:

  • Evaluating more independent employees and letting them know the changes first
  • Creating timetables for when you’ll be less involved in a project
  • Letting other executives or board members know that your department is shifting
  • Not assigning any new tasks to employees until they can work through their current load unassisted
  • Assessing which employees may not be able to work without extensive management

Once you have created a bit of “wiggle room” in your (or your superiors’) expectations for your team, the transition to self-management will be much smoother. 

Shifting to Independence

Instead of getting distracted by the fires you have to put out for your team or employees, imagine what you could accomplish with clear focus and fewer distractions. The purpose of creating a self-managed team is not to eliminate the need for management or executives, but rather to put their skills to better use.

Slowly creating this shift will help your employees, whether self-managed or not, acclimate to their new expectations. You’ll be surprised how many of them flourish without micromanagement, and you’ll be able to focus on what you’re best at: growing the business.