How to overcome the micromanager in you

How to overcome the micromanager in you

By Heather DeBlasio

As a leader, it’s difficult to resist the temptation to constantly check up on those around us.

We get nervous and worry if our staff are doing the jobs we’ve allocated them. Are they doing it at the standard we require?

The temptation to micromanage seems to be a natural instinct. Unfortunately, it often has the opposite effect of what’s intended, leaving our colleagues feeling like we don’t trust them or that they don’t have the capacity to grow.

Here’s some practical tips to avoid becoming the type of boss that inspires frustration and resentment: the dreaded micromanager.

Delegate tasks or projects that give staff the chance to develop and build capacity

Give those you lead real opportunities to grow and develop, so they can maximize their potential and their capacity to contribute in a meaningful way.

Assume those you lead are capable and have the capacity to grow

We all know the power of expectations. If we expect those we lead are capable and have the capacity to grow and achieve the tasks we delegate to them, they’ll likely rise to the challenge.

Use congruent language

It’s essential to use language that’s consistent with your belief that the person you are delegating to has the capacity to grow.

Think very carefully about the words you choose.

Let’s take a quick look at a strategy that clearly demonstrates how important it is to use the right words.

Use the strategy of check-ins, not check-ups

Compare the words check-ins and check-ups as outlined by Danvers, DeBlasio, Grift (pg. 105)¹. You might think there’s not a huge difference between them.

But actually, there’s a world of difference, especially to the people you are leading – and hopefully showing belief in.

When I think of ‘check-ups’, I picture being in a doctor’s waiting room. I’m there because I’m fairly powerless. I know there’s something wrong with me and the doctor is the expert who’s going to diagnose it and tell me how to fix it. It’s not very empowering.

Conversely, ‘check-ins’ has a far more positive – even liberating – ring to it. I see myself at an airport check-in desk, setting off for a new, exciting destination.

Even this small language tweak can make a huge difference.


  1. Ensure there is a shared and precise understanding of expectations.
  2. Avoid making judgements – either about the person, or the state of completion of a task. Don’t ask: “How much longer do you think you’ll be on that?”
  3. Stay curious. This helps you to convey your authentic regard for the person and their capacity to complete the task.
  4. Keep it informal, helping the delegated person to feel more empowered.
  5. Systematise this practice so it becomes part of the culture.

¹Danvers, J., DeBlasio, H., & Grift, G. (2020) Five Ways of Being: What Learning Leaders think, do and say every day. Hawker Brownlow Education.

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