Being on top of your game is the hallmark of a great manager. Unfortunately, there’s such as a thing as being a bit too on top of things, or in this case, your team members. Babysitting your team won’t get the job done any faster; it’s demoralizing and can make the job take even longer! Trying to curb your tendencies towards micromanagement? Check yourself before things get out of control:
#1: Incentivize good performance with autonomy.
Rather than babysitting your project team, establish a clear schedule from day one with deliverable deadlines and status check-ins that make sense for your timeline. If you’re working on a six-month project, daily updates are excessive and claustrophobic. If you’ve got a 48-hour turn-around, however, checking in throughout the day makes complete sense. Autonomy is a powerful motivator. Let team members know that as they continue to hit each milestone on or ahead of schedule, they can gain additional autonomy, like the freedom to telecommute once a week.
#2: Explain the crazy.
We all develop a few idiosyncrasies over the years for project management. What’s brilliant to us may seem, well, downright crazy to others. Don’t assume team members will instantly recognize your “brilliance.” If you have a unique or preferred way of doing things, like naming a file in a certain format to track revision changes, standardize this from day one and explain your reasoning.
At a former company, every time we made a change to a design project we changed the file name accordingly to reflect the version number and then added our initials to indicate who had made the most recent change. This made it much easier to track revisions and know who had last edited the file in case an error had been made. I’ve applied this approach to future team projects, but I always explain my reasoning for using it in advance. This keeps everyone on the same page from day one – and saves me from constantly correcting file names, which, let’s be honest, is borderline crazy.
#3: Provide opportunities for constructive feedback.
The key here is opportunities, plural. Don’t wait until a year-end performance review to find out what’s working – and not – with your team. After each project, take time to meet individually with team members to get their feedback on the process and how they feel it could be improved. Successful projects require buy-in from all stakeholders, whether that’s your client’s CEO or your agency’s intern. In fact, I’ve often found it’s the newest team members (or interns) who offer the most creative suggestions for project management improvement. A fresh approach can come from anyone.
All teams develop a natural rhythm over time. As a project leader, you set the initial tone, but keep in mind that the other team members all have a role to play, too. If you hover too closely, you’ll smother creativity and demoralize your members. Keep your worst micromanaging tendencies in check by setting schedules that make sense for the project scope/timeline, explaining the crazy from day one, and consistently providing opportunities for constructive feedback.
Are you a reformed micromanager? I’d love to hear your tips for success.
Erin M is a freelance writer available for projects at WriterAccess.