The Cure for Micromanaging

It’s a top complaint of employees: meddlesome managers who are always looking over their shoulders.

No one likes working for a micromanager. Likewise, most managers don’t want that label.

Yet it’s a persistent problem, and perhaps we should have some sympathy for these overworked managers who are compelled to stay on top of everything for everyone all of the time. It must be exhausting.

From the micromanager’s point of view, they must feel they have no choice but to provide constant supervision and direction because of problems that occurred in the past.

Luckily, there is a cure for micromanaging.

Managers who effectively use business storytelling techniques in their work will find that employees necessitate less oversight to be productive, require fewer rules and policies to keep them in line and are more engaged overall.

Here are the steps along the path away from micromanaging and toward:

Less oversight

Telling stories about your own past experiences and those of others in similar roles will teach employees to think for themselves. That’s because – unlike instructions – a story explains what to do and how to do it. The way Annette Simmons in The Story Factor describes it, “story is like mental software that you supply so your listener can run it again later using new input specific to the situation.” The story plants a memorable piece of information that is easy to remember and highlights what is most important.

Fewer rules

Whenever something goes awry once, humans have a tendency to create a new rule. That’s why you’ll find wacky laws on the books such as: no walking your dog on the right side of the street on Sundays. The problem with rules is that they are too rigid and they create separation between people. Instead of a new policy, try using the story-triggering technique. Do something remarkable and get people talking. If your employees tend to show up late for meetings and you start only after the last person has arrived, start on time every time, regardless of who is there. They will get the message and you won’t have to create a new dictate.

More engagement
Listening to your employees’ stories will allow you to connect with their self-interest. Our secret fears, passions and beliefs are hidden within the stories we tell. If you elicit stories from your employees, you’ll discover useful information and you will convey empathy. Ask question that prompt stories with questions that begin with “Tell me about a time when….” or “When have you felt….” or “What happened?” Your silence, patience, understanding and thoughtfulness will provide insights and demonstrate respect.

The cure for micromanaging isn’t a bitter pill; storytelling is a fun way to make you a more effective manager and your employees more content.

What more storytelling tips? Listen to the free 30-minute audio training “Making the Business Case for Storytelling”.