Former IT manager Eric P. Bloom, president and founder of Manager Mechanics, a management training firm in Ashland, Mass., saw leadership potential in one of his senior programmers. So he assigned her to work with an intern. His plan was to have the intern take on some of the programmer’s lower-level tasks while the senior programmer gained some management experience.
It didn’t work out that way. Instead, the programmer micromanaged, and both parties were unhappy.
“The intern was miserable. He was being told, 'Put this here, and do this there.’ And [the programmer] spent so much time micromanaging that she was actually less productive,” Bloom says, noting that he had to step in and guide her as she learned to manage.
Many managers, particularly new ones, go through the same experience. They have a hard time letting others take over and perform tasks in their own style. Instead, they remain overly involved in day-to-day details. The results are demoralized staff, overworked managers and poorly executed tasks.
“I don’t see any benefit in micromanaging whatsoever,” says Mal Griffin, CIO of Canada’s Interior Health Authority. “Individuals hate it, and they’re not going to excel because they’re always going to be looking over their shoulders.”
To avoid that trap, IT managers need to give workers the freedom to make their own decisions while still being available to monitor progress and offer help when it’s needed.
Achieving that balance, Griffin says, is the real challenge of being a good delegator.
He and others say there’s no single formula for achieving the right balance, other than the need to beware of the micromanagement trap. Griffin says to ask yourself, “Would I want someone managing me the way I’m managing others?” The answer will give you the insight you need.
“You need to know what’s going on, but you don’t need to be involved every step of the way. You need to let go,” Griffin says.