I have a confession to make. I’m a control freak. I like things done the right way. Of course, when I say “right way” I mean, “my way.” If someone does something well — but not exactly the way I like it done — I will go out of my way to correct it. I’m sure my wife would be happy to tell you more about my condition.

I’m not proud of being an experienced and gifted micromanager. But there are times when it seems micromanaging is the only way to get anything done.

The truth is, we all have a bit of control freak in us. We love to micromanage people.

The question is, why?

Here are three common motivations behind our desire to micromanage:

1. Control

Personally, I find I micromanage because I like the feeling of being in control. At times, I feel like a failure if I lose control.

Is this you? If so, welcome to the club.

2. Completing a Task

I recently heard Bryan Miles (Co-Founder & CEO of BELAY – the best place to find a virtual assistant, bookkeeper, webmaster, or content writer, by the way) on this podcast talk about why leaders micromanage.

Miles said top-level leaders tend to work on projects lasting 3, 6, or 9 months long. Because there’s so much time between completing these projects, they often feel unproductive for months. To combat this, they like to accomplish smaller projects and tasks that don’t take as long to complete.

This is why many leaders struggle to delegate the simple tasks, and even when they do — they micromanage.

Is your motivation for micromanaging simply that you want to finish something — no matter how small it is — so you can feel productive?

3. Excellence

There are times when I want things to be done with excellence and I’m doing my best to help others succeed. In those instances, my goal is to equip and empower. However, if I don’t trust the other person to do a good job, I end up hurting the situation, not helping.

My micromanaging takes away any space for that person to figure it out on their own. In other words, I’m not setting them up to succeed. I’m not empowering them towards excellence. I’m not delegating well. I’m simply doing everything for them while they watch.

Is excellence your motivation, but you still find yourself micromanaging?

Think about the last time you micromanaged your assistant, kids, or spouse? Was it necessary to be so involved? Or was it simply a personal preference? Was your motivation excellence and productivity, or did you want to maintain control?

Delegate Results

So how do we overcome our poor leadership practice of micromanaging and learn to delegate well?

We need to delegate results (Note: I also heard this idea from Bryan Miles).

We explain the “why” and let our assistant figure out the “what.”

If they need help along the way, we make ourselves available.

Here’s an example of delegating a task as a micromanager…

You ask your assistant to schedule a meeting with all 11 board members, over a nice dinner at an off-site location, before the end of the year.

The next day, you text each board member and ask them what day works for them to have the meeting. Then you call a couple restaurants and reserve a room.

A couple days later you call your assistant to tell her a few date options and mention you’ve booked the restaurant. She lets you know she had already booked the dinner at a different restaurant. You tell her to call so-and-so and get a third option and go with their recommendation.

Later that day you text the board again and ask them where they’d like to have the meeting. After gathering a few responses, you ask your assistant to visit each restaurant to get a feel for what the best option would be.

The next day, you decide to visit a couple of the restaurants yourself, and precede with booking a room at one of them. When you call your assistant, she informs you she already visited all three and booked a room at one of the other options.

This whole time your assistant is thinking to herself, “Great. I just wasted my time on all this, while you did the work. And you wasted your time on it because you have much bigger fish to fry!” Check out my post on what your assistant wishes you would do to hear more from their perspective.

Here’s an example of what it would look like to delegate results

You ask your assistant to schedule a meeting with all 11 board members, over a nice dinner at an off-site location, before the end of the year.

You tell your assistant to let you know if she has questions or runs into any issues along the way.

You go back to working on the agenda for that meeting — and other projects on your job description — and await your assistant’s updates.

Trust and Lead

See the difference? Let’s stop micromanaging and start leading well by delegating results — no matter what our motivations are.

I would love to hear what other motivations drive your micromanaging. Comment below with your thoughts!

In closing, here are a few quotes on leadership to drive the point home a bit more:

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” —Theodore Roosevelt

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” —General George Patton

“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.” —Andrew Carnegie

Are you overwhelmed and tired of doing tasks that drain you? Get one-on-one coaching to help you empower your assistant, so you gain more time, energy, and success. If you don’t have an assistant, I can help you hire one. Learn more about my coaching services here.

Assistant Challenge Details