You’ve assigned an important task to a talented employee and given her a deadline. Now, do you let her do her work and simply touch base with her at predefined points along the way – or do you keep dropping by her desk and sending e-mails to check her progress? If it’s the latter, you might be a micromanager.

Micromanagers take perfectly positive attributes — an attention to detail and a hands-on attitude — to the extreme. Whether they are control-obsessed or simply feel driven to succeed, micromanagers risk disempowering their colleagues. They ruin their colleagues’ confidence, hurt their performance, and frustrate them to the point where they quit. Micromanagers prevent employees from making — and taking responsibility for — their own decisions. But it’s precisely the process of making decisions, and living with the consequences, that causes people to grow and improve.

Not sure this describes you? Below are five signs you might be a micromanager:

  • You resist delegating.
  • You immerse yourself in overseeing the projects of others.
  • You start by correcting tiny details instead of looking at the big picture.
  • You take back delegated work before it is finished if you find a mistake in it.
  • You discourage others from making decisions without consulting you.

The first step in avoiding the micromanagement trap (or getting out of it once you’re there) is to recognize it. Once you do,  it’s time to apologize and change. This means giving your employees the leeway – and encouragement – to succeed. Focus first on the ones with the most potential, and learn to delegate effectively to them. Get support from your boss, coach, or colleague. A terrific book on this topic is Marshall Goldsmith’s “What Got Your Here Won’t Get You There.”

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