Don't Micromanage: 6 Tips to Keep Your Team Happy

A manager's job isn't to boss people around. Take a cue from Goldilocks! Don't manage too much or too little but just right. 
Stever Robbins
6-minute read
Episode #550

Management! I just love management! At least, I love it when it’s done right. 

My good friend Pat Productive led a team of 12 happy employees for over a decade. Through good times and bad, they delivered rock-solid products to happy customers. Pat was the rock star of the division. The team delivered concrete results. They never rocked the boat.

Then the reorg happened.

Pat was transferred to report to Bossy McManager. Bossy McManager cared. Bossy cared a lot. Cared too much. About every single detail, no matter how unimportant. Bossy would re-examine the team’s every decision and offer helpful corrections. By “corrections,” I mean Bossy would dictate a different way of doing things.

Despite 12 years of a super-happy career, in just three months, half the team had quit. Morale plummeted. Pat asked for my help. I suggested giving Bossy McManager a peace offering, like a full-grown carnivorous Audrey II as a tasteful office decoration. Pat didn’t like that suggestion and quit instead. 

Just like that, the company’s most amazing 12-year team was destroyed. All by Bossy McManager’s micromanaging. So, here are my six tips to help you avoid micromanaging.

#1 - Understand That Management Happens at Many Levels

A lot of people think that managers are bosses; they think a manager’s job is to boss people around. And who doesn’t like to be bossed around, right? Wrong. When your shmoopie asks what you want for your birthday, you don’t say “I want to be bossed around.” (Well, some of you do, but that has nothing to do with work.) People don’t want to be bossed around. But they do want managers who provide direction. 

Different people need direction at different levels of detail. If Erin Expert has run a dozen project launches, you probably just need to say, “Hey, Erin, please launch our latest line of Play-Doh-based electronic erector sets.” They can take it from there. When you check in on them, you can ask big-picture questions. “Where will our initial launch be? What is our media mix? Is computer scientist Grace Hopper available for an endorsement?” 

People don’t want to be bossed around. But they do want managers who provide direction.

The less-experienced Norton Newbie may need more detailed direction. “First, you choose the cities where we’ll sell the erector sets. Next, schedule a launch party. Finally, invite the press, to get favorable media coverage.” You’ll check in on Norton with lots of detailed questions. You might make specific recommendations about what to do. “Why did you choose Schenectady for the launch? Please choose a city that’s easier to spell. You invited the press by email using an ugly font. Format future email using Palatino.” Norton will be grateful that you’re helping them do a good job at something new. 


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.