Micromanaging is the most common dysfunction that I have seen in leaders. It was also a problem early in my leadership experience. This fact is not intuitive, but it is true: the fewer decisions we feel we need to make as leaders actually indicates the strength of our leadership and results in a stronger and more confident team.
Being micromanaged is one of the top reasons employees resign. It kills creativity, breeds mistrust, causes undue stress, and demoralizes your team. Micromanaging leaders also can’t scale and grow their organizations. If you want to avoid these consequences, practice delegating: hire the right people, set clear expectations, let go of perfectionism, and then challenge your team to be the best that they can be.
One of the greatest leadership lessons I learned was pivoting from the auto industry, where I had spent years gaining knowledge and expertise before leading large teams or divisions, to the theme park industry. In the auto industry I learned autocratic leadership: I didn’t delegate well and felt I had most, if not all, the right answers based on experience. When I entered the theme park world as a CEO, I learned to ask thoughtful and challenging questions of talented people. When they presented new ideas, I listened, but also challenged their thinking, probed deeper, and asked many ‘why’ questions. This Socratic approach not only made me a better leader, but I found that by challenging my team’s thinking I helped them expand their perspective, grow stronger in their roles, and own their decisions. I found I could attract and keep even better quality leaders with this approach.
Like all great leadership principles, there are usually exceptions to a rule. Indeed, there are certain decisions a leader, at any level, can not, or perhaps, should not delegate. This is a learned skill but here is a powerful tip: always ask this question regarding delegation: “What is the worst case scenario that can occur with this decision and can I live with it?” If the answer is “Yes,” the decision is a candidate for delegation. If the answer is “No”, then it should not be delegated.
Deliver feedback to your team, positive or constructive. If a delegatee makes a mistake, give them honest feedback without destroying their confidence or dignity. This creates a sense of value and trust, establishes clear communication channels, and lets your team members know you have their backs. Want to read more on feedback? Stay tuned, there is more to come on how leader’s miss the mark on proper feedback.