A Delegating Pitfall: Micromanaging

Written by:

Lisa Crilley Mallis

You know what you want to be done and the result is so clear in your mind so it should be easy to delegate, right? So why do you struggle with the process? Usually, it's because you get so wrapped up in the "HOW", you end up micromanaging.

When you delegate to skilled helpers, you need to give up control of the middle part of the people you delegate to can get a little crabby (or worse!). And when you're micromanaging, you aren’t really saving any time because you are checking progress constantly!

One way to let go of the HOW is to follow the 9 steps of delegation. Step 5 allows you to co-design a check-in schedule – and not hover!

Another way to limit the micromanaging is to be clear on which level of delegation you are using. These were adapted from Delegating for Results by Robert B. Maddux.

Level I - Look into the situation, get all the facts and report back for instructions.

Level II - Identify the problem, determine several solutions and the pros and cons of each, recommend

one for approval and wait for instructions.

Level III - Examine the matter, send word on what you intend to do, take no action until you get the go ahead.

Level IV - Decide on a strategy, send word of what it is, and take action unless you hear otherwise.

Level V - Take action on this matter and report back on what you did and how it turned out.

Level VI - Take action – no further communication is necessary. The assumption is that it’s been

Different projects need to be assigned at different levels, depending on the "delegatee." Your goal is to delegate at the highest level possible for the person and the project, to maximize your effectiveness.

However, if you and the person you are delegating to are not in alignment, chaos reigns. For example, if the person you delegated to thinks they are in a Level V relationship but you are delegating at a Level I, they will feel undervalued and micromanaged.

However, if this is flipped and you are delegating at a Level V and the person thinks they are at a Level I, you will become frustrated with their “lack of initiative.”

For example, let's say you delegate planning an event (a fairly complex task) to someone who is not accustomed to being delegated to (therefore she's expecting to be managed at a Level I), and you delegate at a Level VI (providing little to no instruction), the helper will be lost and you'll be frustrated.

If you delegate that same event to a skilled event coordinator, but you manage her at a Level I, she'll be insulted and find your micromanaging interfering, because she's skilled at a Level VI.

A critical component of effective delegation is to have a discussion with the person you’re assigning a task to about what they have the authority to do (or not do) – what decisions and actions they can make without consulting you. This allows you to step back from micromanaging and maintain the “big picture” of the task.

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