Micromanage or not?! That is the question.

How micromanaging interrupts the flow in you as a leader and in your subordinates? What steps help to promote flow at work? Are there any circumstances when micromanaging is not only allowed but desirable?


First of all please, allow me to be a bit personal here: I look at timesheet if it were my enemy. I know, it’s a great tool for managers to keep a track of their subordinates time and tasks, but for me, it’s a great representation of a flow-killer technique. Take blog writing as an example: first of all I need to decide on the topic, then research and read a lot of articles and/or books about it and then give a little time till my thoughts blossom into words and finally I write them down. How should I put it into a timesheet? Should I count those hours as well, while I was traveling to work or doing my errands around the house and the blog topic absorbed my thoughts? While I am doing the research or just think about the topic, I seemingly do nothing, so it would be odd writing into the time sheet: “I am thinking right now”. And on the other hand, it would be really disturbing to be interrupted by a pop-up asking me to fill in the timesheet while I’m in the flow of writing. Time sheet that asks for accounting for every single minute spent at the workplace or on a job, is a great tool for interrupting the flow of creativity in employees.

How to avoid to become a micromanager and promote flow at the same time?

  1. Tell the “what”, not the “how”: give step by step instructions on how to get to the desired outcome and you’ll end up being greatly involved in the task by checking on their implementation instead of doing your own work. “My way or the highway” – you might think, but are you sure that there are no other approaches that might lead to the same or even better results? If you want to promote flow then just give clear goals and then let your colleagues find their own solution. Till they are blossoming their own creativity you can finish up your own tasks uninterruptedly as well.
  2. Give and accept feedback and reduce ego: unless the job speaks for itself (for example mountain climbing where the meters left behind tells us where we are right now), giving feedback is crucial in enhancing motivation and self-improvement. I know it would be harsh on a habitual micromanager to face such feedback as: “you don’t let us unfold our talent, because you think that you could do anything better or you even scared that any of us could take your job away”, but giving honest feedbacks a try might not hurt in the long run. It might sound odd, but by giving credit to others or even admitting mistakes give the message that instead of self-importance, it’s the journey while reaching the goal that matters.
  3. Balance: have you noticed that Agnes, who you hired years ago as a secretary, is bored with her job, but she is the first one to grab the opportunity to organize social and promotional events at the company? have you realized that Miranda is suffocating under the weight of leading the marketing team but happily spends hours on creating the new social media campaign? The key here is: balancing between skills and challenges, otherwise, you might end up micromanaging these colleagues imperceptibly: one’s tasks (that she is bored with) would need be checked more frequently, while the other one would need more encouragement and step by step instructions to get over her frustration. Needless to say: unbalanced colleagues might interrupt the “flow” in others and you as well.
  4. Let go of minutia: as a manager, you must be great at prioritizing and identifying those tasks that can be delegated to others. Delegation is a great way to increase the responsibility of your colleagues. It’s an absolute win-win situation: you get to have more time to focus on the big picture while your employees are getting more committed to their workplace. They are figuring out revolutionary solutions for the problems you raised, while you can navigate towards to new directions.
  5. Concentrate and let them concentrate: do you know the feeling when you are just about to find the right words to finish up your report and your moment of composing is interrupted by rhythmical knocking on your door? Now, exactly that’s how your employees are feeling when you keep checking on them every five minutes to see how they proceed with the task that you just gave them a half an hour ago. Loud noise, e-mails popping up, constantly ringing phone, a meeting in the middle of the day – these are all great tools to interrupt concentration and stifle creativity.

A micromanager could easily find himself suffocating under the load of tasks he pulled upon himself by not trusting in others’ capabilities and being scared of losing his job. Besides all what has said above, is there any situation when micromanaging is needed? Actually yes, but I wouldn’t call the actions taken in these situations micromanaging. So, what these situations could be: if a company is facing new challenges and new strategy is needed; if the enterprise decides to produce new products or offer new services; if there is a new colleague, leader or unit that needs instructions and/or supervision at the beginning; results are disappointing and there is an employee who continuously fails to execute or when a customer registers a serious complaint.

If you’d met Chris, the Vineyard Manager of Turul Winery in the game FLIGBY, you could get a clear picture about a control-freak micromanager, who hardly can let anything go of his hands. How can he be handled? Is he capable of achieving the state of flow? There’s only one way to figure it out: by playing.


(This was made Judit Nuszpl