How to Stop Micromanaging and Empower Autonomous Teams
As a manager, trusting your team to learn, improve, and eventually function autonomously is part of the job— but sometimes trust can feel more like losing control. If you fear what might happen when you loosen your grip and give more autonomy to your team, it’s worth also considering what could happen if you don’t.
According to a study by Gallop, 75 percent of the reasons people quit come down to their managers. Having a manager who doesn’t grant ownership and emphasize individual impact within an organization can lead to dissatisfaction, and eventually, employee turnover.
No one plans on becoming a micromanager; they dream of being a leader. So what should you do if you wake up and realize you are micromanaging your team?
1. Understand your underlying reasons for micromanaging your team
You’ve come to accept that you’re a micromanager, and you’ve realized you aren’t acting like the kind of manager you want to be. It might feel hopeless. But don’t throw the towel in just yet.
First, think about what has caused you to micromanage in the first place: what goes through your mind when you second-guess your team’s work? Do you mistrust their judgment or attention to detail? Do you feel insecure with your own position in the company – and worry there’s no room for mistakes?
Ask yourself where this pressure is coming from, and start by taking a few easy-to-implement steps.
- Talk it through with your boss. Schedule a time to sit with your boss to understand his or her KPIs for you and your team. This will help you understand where you stand and what to focus on moving forward.
- Empower your team with small initiatives. Take the time to assess your teams’ individual strengths and passions. Start off small, with projects and tasks you feel comfortable letting go of, and have them own it A to Z.
- Focus on the big picture. Start setting your own personal goals and KPIs of where you would like to lead your team. By investing your time in big-picture projects, your priorities will begin to shift from micromanagement to leadership.
2. Talk to your team and determine how they can work autonomously
Whether it’s due to individual performance, a poorly managed process, or unclear communication within the team, the best way to understand how to move forward is to get a full picture of the current situation.
Let your team know you’ll be scheduling meetings for feedback to discuss internal processes and initiatives in order to set expectations. Emphasize that you are committed to hearing and implementing their feedback. Walk into the meeting with the intention of learning more about the strengths and interests of your team. Understanding each individual’s strong points can help in structuring your team to work better together.
Your motivation should be to create an autonomous team. Think of this as a time to share the end goal for your team – and let them figure out how to best get there. When empowered with freedom and a clear goal, they will figure out how to overcome hurdles, move faster, and achieve goals.
The benefits of allowing your team to create their own intrinsic motivation and work more autonomously not only has positive effects on your team, but also on the business’ bottom line. A study on small businesses by Cornell University found that businesses that allowed their teams to work autonomously experienced a growth rate of 200% higher than those that relied on a hierarchical style of management and experienced only one third the turnover rate.
Opening the floor and letting others talk can lead to some unexpected discoveries, so be open to what you may discover – the focus should be on building trust within your team in order to enable them to work autonomously.
3. Implement solutions to rebuild trust
The tools and technology that teams use can have a surprising ripple effect on the culture of the team. Subtle differences can greatly affect the way your team works together, communicates, and manages project expectations. For autonomous teams to thrive you need trust, but you still need to have insights into their workflows. Managers need visibility into projects and processes in order to monitor and ensure alignment across teams, and this can be difficult without micromanaging.
A Work OS can help you empower your team to achieve more by giving them tools to work independently while providing oversight to their managers:
- With all workflows managed under the same Work OS, you know exactly who is responsible for what— increasing ownership and your ability to stay on top of projects and easily take action where needed.
- Clear insight into the workflows of your team allows you to align on KPIs and goals while maintaining the flexibility needed for the moving deadlines and changing priorities of day-to-day work.
- Automations help to move workflows along, letting your team focus on the work that requires their talents.
- Governance and permissions within the Work OS help you set team members’ roles within workflows and processes – and invite external partners to contribute when necessary.
By balancing independence and governance, a Work OS allows you to let your team run through their daily workflows. You stay informed on the status, progress, and owners of every project – but allow your teams to work in the way that they choose in order to achieve their goals.
Try out a ready-made template and get a jumpstart on unleashing your team’s autonomy.
4. Maintain your new management style
Deciding to change your management style is not only a realization — it’s a shift in daily habits. By implementing practices that foster trust, teams will be free to achieve more, and the results may come as a pleasant surprise. If you hear the call of micromanagement beckoning, keep yourself accountable by asking yourself: “Am I being a leader, or a manager right now?”
Accepting that you may be micromanaging is half the battle, so the worst is over. Now that you have a few actionable tips to improve your management style, it’s time to put them in place and rebuild trust with your team.