How to Not be a Micromanager and Delegate Effectively

October 29, 2018

Learn how to delegate effectively.

Our new research has confirmed what you already knew – employees don’t like micromanagers. And, if you do micromanage your employees, there’s a good chance they’ll go elsewhere.

Recently, we at LinkedIn Learning surveyed 3,000 professionals and asked them the most frustrating trait they’ve experienced in a manager. A top answer was micromanagement. The data also showed employees are significantly more likely to quit their job if they feel like they are being micromanaged.

This isn’t new – micromanagement has been a gripe of employees forever. Plus, it prevents managers from taking on more strategic work.

So, why does it continue to be a problem?

Three main reasons, according to leadership guru and LinkedIn Learning Instructor Dorie Clark in her course, Delegating Tasks:

1. It’s not easy to let go. You’ve been a successful sales person and now you’ve been promoted to sales manager. It’s hard to give up the skills that got you there – being a great salesperson – to learn a new skillset, coaching others.

How to overcome it: You need to accept that you are not going to be as good at this new skillset – managing others – as you were at your old skillset. Realize it's a time for growth, instead of expecting perfection from yourself right away.

2. It’s hard to trust someone else. You were likely a successful individual contributor if you were promoted into management. That makes it hard to trust your people to do the job as well as you once did it, because you did their job well.

How to overcome it: Your main job as a manager is to bring the most out of your people. Focus on mastering coaching skills, while giving your employees the freedom to do their work in the way that best works for them. 

3. It takes more time upfront. Teaching someone how to do something can take longer than just doing it yourself. So, you continue to do tasks yourself you should delegate.

How to overcome it: This is classic penny-wise, pound-foolish approach. Yes, taking time to explain things might take more time upfront. But, it’ll save you a tremendous amount of time in the long run – including the time it takes to hire new employees, as your old ones will leave because you micromanaged them.

How to Delegate Effectively: It’s All About Communication

It’s clear that delegating effectively is a key part of being a good manager – both common sense and our new data shows that. But, delegating is a skill like any other, which you need to learn to do well.

So, how do you delegate effectively? Clark explains:

Good delegation really comes down to good communication. That means:

  • Take time ahead of time to be clear on what you want. It's critical to spend time upfront with the employee to explain what you want. Give them examples of what great looks like and the key themes they need to deliver on. Here’s the time to overcommunicate – the more clear the employee is of the outcome you want, the less need you’ll have to micromanage and the better the result.
  • Have a deadline for every assignment. Sounds basic, right? And yet this doesn’t happen all the time, which leads to a lack of clarity on both sides. Since you as the manager aren’t clear when the project is due, you tend to check in more and more, which leads to micromanagement.
  • Prioritize each assignment. Yes, there are deadlines for each assignment, but also priorities. What’s the most important work your team should spend the most time on, so it’s outstanding? And what’s the stuff that needs to get done, but isn’t as critical? Make that clear.
  • Set up a check-in schedule. This will prevent you from micromanaging. If you have a regular check-in period both you and your employee agree with, it’s almost impossible to micromanage – you only check in and give feedback on agreed-upon times.
  • Explain how they should communicate to you if problems arise. Last, of course the schedule is great, but unexpected problems arise all the time. Explain to your employee how they should communicate with you when problems arise – and let them know overcommunicating is better than under-communicating. This will make the employee feel supported, while also quelling your own anxieties.

The Takeaway: Delegating Effectively Comes Down to Clarity

What’s interesting is the trait employees said they find most frustrating in a manager – unclear expectations – is really the cause of their second biggest gripe, micromanagement.

The best way to avoid micromanaging is setting clear expectations for projects and a clear schedule for check-ins and delivery. That'll lead to clear direction, better outcomes – and you not micromanaging. 

Want to learn more? Watch Clark’s course, Delegating Effectively, which is free until Dec. 31.

Other leadership courses you might be interested in are, which are also 100% free until Dec. 31: