Are You Coaching a Micromanager?

Confession: I just micromanaged a relationship, and it did not end well. Here are some insights from my experience!

What is micromanaging?

It’s insisting on things being done our way because our way makes us feel comfortable, safe, and in control. It makes us feel like we can know what the outcome will be. It’s a way of managing stress, or perceiving that we are managing the stressors of the unknown, ambiguity, risk.

He has gotten where he is because he’s been successful doing it his way. And yet, this is also an opportunity for the micro manager to grow as a leader who knows how to tap other peoples drinks, different from his, to bring something bigger and could be accomplished on his own.

What are the unintended consequences of micromanaging?

When we micromanage, we diminish others. We send a message that says ‘you aren’t smart enough,’ ‘my way is better,’ or ‘I don’t trust you.’ Or, we send a message that says, ‘hierarchically, I am above you, better than you, more powerful than you.’

When we micromanage, we also diminish our options. We see our one way of doing things, which shuts down our creativity, brainstorming, and engagement with others to hear their ideas and solutions.

How to use coaching skills to move forward.

First, apply compassion. The micromanager (whether you or your client) has good reason to micromanage. Our motivations are often bathed in good intentions. We want to help. We want to be thoughtful. Or maybe it’s that we want others to trust us and have confidence in how smart we are.

You may ask, “What if I am older and wiser and more experienced than the person I am trying to micromanage?” In these situations, apply curiosity. Ask the other person, “What are your thoughts about [x]? … How would you approach [y]?”

When coaching a leader who is micromanaging, use active listening. For example:

“I hear some concerns about letting them do it differently than how you want it done … like they’re not respecting you in doing it your way … or it’s not going to be as efficient done their way … and you’ve got these deadlines that you’re juggling.”

Ask several curiosity questions, and leave plenty of silence and space for reflection and answers between the questions. For example:

* Sounds like you want it done your way. …

* What are the risks of having them do it a different way? …

* How would you manage those risks? …

* What message are you wanting to send when you tell them to do it your way …

* And what message do you think they are actually receiving? …

* How is that impacting things?

Letting go of control increases your options, deepens relationships, and empowers the people around you!

Our next Certified Executive & Leadership Development Coach program begins September 7th. Contact Rachel Grima at or 559.547.8200 if you are curious to learn more!

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How To Handle Uncertainty

How do you handle uncertainty? How do your clients handle uncertainty?

Uncertainty comes in all shapes and sizes:

> Will there be enough paycheck at the end of the month?

> Will we make our financial goals at the office?

> Will so-and-so fly off the handle when I deliver negative feedback to him?

Uncertainty is often fraught with worry, anxiety, and worst-case scenarios. We can project into the future an outcome—usually negative—for how the situation will resolve.

And as we project negative into the situation, we subtly tell our brain to be on the lookout for those negative things. And, voila, the self-fulfilling prophecy takes effect.

In coaching, support your clients to learn how they best manage uncertainty. Here are a few ideas:

> Reframe the uncertainty as “opportunity.”

> Visualize yourself being successful in the various ways the situation might play out.

> Brainstorm how your strengths support you in walking through the uncertainty.

> Use mindfulness and observational techniques, such as “I am curiously noticing that I’m projecting a negative outcome for the future. I am now choosing to envision a positive outcome.”

> Breathe deeply. Breathe again. One more time.

Try on a few of these ideas today for any uncertainty you’re facing. Enjoy!

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Hanging on to the Negatives?

Do the people you live with, work with, or coach cling to negativity? If so, there may be a few reasons they do. Consider these possibilities:

Payoffs: What are the payoffs of negativity in someone’s life? Perhaps it’s a sense of martyrdom, or maybe the person enjoys being the center of attention because of the drama associated with negativity.

Perceptions: The perception that they won’t receive the empathy or relationship we need from others to feel heard, supported, or significant.

Comfort zones: If negative emotions are the norm, shifting to positive can be uncomfortable and scary. Emotions are part of our human nature, both positive and negative. But elongating negative emotions is a learned behavior, which, thankfully, can be unlearned!

Confusion: We may be confused about how long it’s “acceptable” to experience negative emotions—the bigger the trauma/loss, the longer it can take to recover.

If negative emotions are hanging on too long, be reflective and curious about whether any of the above may be at play. Negative emotions should never be cuddled, cherished, or treasured because they end up draining us of our ability to think clearly, feel good, and take strategic action.

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Using 3 Brain States to Connect with Others

I watched an interesting video by educator Becky Bailey who discusses “three states of the brains” that impact our behavior. She outlines them and their functions as follows:

Survival State: This is the brain in “freeze” of the proverbial fight-flight-freeze response. It is concerned with survival—protection, safety. When we are in survival state, we are not engaging the smartest part of our brain.

Emotional State: This is the brain in the “fight-flight” mode. Our emotions hijack us from thinking clearly in this state. We say and do things that we later regret because emotions have gotten the better of us. We are often thinking of ourselves in this state—preserving our reputation, protecting our financial resources, defending our rights, etc.

Executive State: This is the brain in “flow-flourish” mode. Here, the prefrontal cortex is engaged, such that we think more clearly, creatively, and collaboratively. However, if we do not feel safe or emotionally connected, our executive state kicks into plotting, scheming, and protecting.

With an awareness of these three brain states, we can better understand how to connect with others, whether they be family members, coworkers, bosses, employment interviewers, clients, etc.

To address the Survival State in others, help them feel SAFE:

How do we help someone feel safe? It’s tough, because we cannot control the other person’s thoughts or feelings. But we can use body language, tone of voice, facial expressions that will cue the person to sense that they are safe with us.

To address the Emotional State in others, SERVE:

We serve others by understanding what their needs are… and, to the degree it is appropriate for us to engage, serve them in meeting those needs. For example, if interviewing for a  job, asking the interviewer: “What are your top 3 priorities for this position in the nex 6 months?” or if speaking to an employee, “What resources do you need to complete this project on time?” This conveys that you will add to and not drain the relationship.

To address the Executive State, SOLVE:

We solve by being strategic, collaborative, and action-focused. Strategic involves being curious about the bigger picture, as opposed to having a narrow-minded, myopic view of the situation. Collaborative means to engage others’ strengths in the process—e.g., “Jane, I know you’re great at Intellection—what ideas have you been chewing on about this project?” Action-focused involves taking actions, which can include thinking differently, managing mood better, and/or executing on ideas.

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