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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