There are a lot of dangers associated with micromanaging. Among other things, it causes demotivation and creates a stressful work environment (for both managers and employees).
Micromanaging often leads to higher employee turnover, which results in learned knowledge getting lost to competitors. Moreover, micromanagers may experience burnout with health issues resulting from stress.
That’s why it’s important to learn how to manage without micromanaging. This article will provide you with 6 best practices to help you delegate and demonstrate trust and encouragement among your employees so you can improve morale and build creative, cohesive teams who aren’t afraid to take the initiative.
What are Individual Contributors?
The term “individual contributor” is a new phrase that is used to describe the role of senior professionals who work without people management responsibilities.
Individual contributors are employees who aren’t on the management track in an organization. Unlike management-track employees, they manage their one-person team on tasks and projects.
They have developed useful skills in the workplace and are competent at:
Developing rapport with others; and
Making relationships work.
In fact, individual contributors can be a valuable asset that define the success of an organization.
One of the major complaints ICs have about their jobs has to do with how much autonomy they think they have in their current role.
The perceived level of independence comes down to how closely their immediate manager or supervisor dictates the production details and nuances of the work employees must complete.
Having said that, managers, HR, and company leaders are sometimes uncomfortable when it comes to giving people so much responsibility without keeping a tight rein on them.
They feel the need to look over the shoulders of individual contributors, and these overzealous tendencies can lead to a lot of problems down the line.
Dangers of Micromanaging Individual Contributors
A recent study conducted by AccounTemps shows that over 59% of participants admitted that they have at one time or another worked under a micromanager.
68% of those respondents believed that this management approach had a negative impact on overall team morale, and a high number of the participants reported that it seriously inhibited their work productivity, including that of the company at large.
Micromanagement can result in the loss of an organization’s important talent. It erodes trust, and over time, it can turn a workplace environment toxic.
By consistently looking over the shoulders of your employees, particularly ICs, you make it a lot less likely that they’ll be able to become effective or excel on their own.
Here’s a quick summary of the negative impact of micromanaging ICs:
Destroys Trust: Constant micromanagement destroys trust and undermines the initiative and autonomy of employees over time
Creates Bottlenecks: Micromanaging creates bottlenecks in decision-making and response time when employees won’t do anything without a superior’s explicit approval.
Fosters Dependency: Micromanagement also leads to dependent employees who will start to depend on you instead of having the confidence to complete tasks on their own.
Now that you know why micromanagement of ICs is bad, let’s take a look at some of the best practices to help individual contributors without micromanaging.
Best Practices for Helping ICs Without Micromanaging
Listed below are 6 tips and strategies to help you stay involved and keep your employees accountable while avoiding micromanagement.
1. Allow Them to Create Their Own Goals and OKRs
There are many ways you can define measurable goals and track the outcomes of individual contributors.
You can use objectives and key results (OKRs) as a goal-setting framework. This will allow you to manage expectations instead of tasks.
For the most part, managers spend a lot of time trying to communicate to their teams what needs to be done. However, there are times when what needs to be done is different from what is expected.
For leaders to be effective, they need to do their best to ensure that individual contributors know exactly what is expected so that there is no longer a need to micromanage.
When everyone is in sync with the expectations, it becomes about outcomes, instead of activity, and it all starts with letting them create their own goals and OKRs.
2. Offer Assistance with an Open-Door Policy
It’s possible to offer assistance to individual contributors without looking over their shoulders. You can do this by having an open-door policy. It involves maintaining casual, open lines of communication to help you build rapport with everyone in your internal team.
If you want to foster an environment of employee enjoyment and high-quality work, you shouldn’t only be communicating with your team about how they need to be doing their work in a different or better way. You should also build an atmosphere of openness and transparent communication by chatting to them about their work, and also investing in their personal well-being.
For instance, you might take your team out to lunch or go to a local bar for happy hour, when not on the clock. This will help you build the social side of your relationship.
When your individual contributors know that they can rely on you to listen, they not only feel highly valued, but they are more likely to bring any problems that arise (professional or personal) to your attention to get your advice or assistance.
Make sure you are there to address any challenges they might be facing. Be prompt to respond to all the questions your employee handbook doesn’t cover.
Ultimately, this will help them to be more productive. It is something that probably wouldn’t happen if you were constantly picking apart their work (as micromanagers tend to do).
At times, there will be common issues that need the attention of most, but not all employees. Instead of attempting to gather everyone up together for a conference, you can create unique webinars that employees can watch if they need to.
Using webinar software to create these resources can also save time and money in the long-run because you won’t have to make all your employees stop what they’re doing to attend a conference or company-wide meeting.
3. Let Them Develop Their Own Systems and Strategies
Once you’ve made sure that everyone understands their role in your organization, it becomes easier to allow them to develop their own strategies, tactics, and processes to achieve their objectives.
All you have to do is make sure there are clear, well-defined goals where nothing falls through the cracks.
Individual contributors will know their responsibilities, and developing their own systems and strategies makes them more accountable.
The best part is that you’ll have to do less work to manage them since you’ll now be a facilitator as opposed to a taskmaster.
Just remember to build in some flexibility into each role.
Although striking a balance can be difficult, it’s important to take the time to work on this so your independent contributors can have room to be creative. By offering such opportunities, you make it more likely that your ICs will be innovative and still get things done.
As humans, we all love recognition. One of the best ways you can help individual contributors stay on track without crossing the line into micromanagement is by using gamification and non-monetary rewards to recognize their contributions and help them meet their goals and OKRs.
The great part about non-monetary rewards is that they are perceived to be more authentic and decrease variable costs incurred by the business.
You can begin to build a culture of recognition as a way to support ICs by reevaluating how you reward employees.
For instance, for those who are happy to remain ICs, you can replace promotions to management with new opportunities, such as:
Opportunities for gaining recognition
Opportunities for taking on new responsibility
Opportunities for sharing their expertise
… and so on.
So, instead of giving ICs managerial responsibility for other team members, you might give them ownership responsibility for key projects.
As they succeed (and their project succeeds), it gives them visibility across the entire organization, and they have plenty of small wins along the way that are worth celebrating.
Additionally, you can encourage employees to take part in webinars or use online course platforms that can help them learn new tasks or overcome common problems. Not only does this save costs by getting employees engaged without monetary rewards, it can incentivize employees to stay up-to-date with changes in the workplace.
5. Provide Avenues for Social Engagement and Praise
Yet another way to help individual contributors without micromanaging is to provide them with avenues for praise and social engagement.
This means building your skills for managing your culture rather than managing people.
The importance of social engagement in the workplace cannot be overstated. Social media is key to mobilizing and engaging employees at work. It provides great avenues for praise, particularly in larger organizations.
You must be able to create opportunities where you and the rest of your team can engage socially while still being able to communicate with clarity.
Last, but not least, use surveys to understand what your individual contributors need and how to help them.
A lot of micromanagers only do so because of the trust issues they harbor. In their eyes, no one else can do the job as effectively as they would do it.
But, by asking questions to gain a better understanding (instead of constantly criticizing), you’ll be able to find out exactly what ICs need in order to be more productive.
Furthermore, using employee surveys will allow you to offer constructive and actionable feedback on a consistent basis, giving you the opportunity to provide your employees with specific ideas pertaining to how they can perform their jobs better.
In other words, using surveys will allow you to discover what you can do to provide encouragement and opportunities for improvement. It will help you get outstanding results from your ICs – all without having to micromanage any of them.
There is a very thin line between being an involved manager and becoming a micromanager who drives all the individual contributors mad.
Use the tips outlined above to help you give your ICs the support they need without micromanaging them.
Which of the tips outlined above appeals to you the most? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Ron Stefanski is an online entrepreneur and marketing professor who has a passion for helping people create and market their own online business. You can learn more from him by visitingOneHourProfessor.com
Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2023.