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Did You Micro-Manage Someone Today?

6 steps to delegate effectively at work

by Jo Miller  |  4550 views  |  5 comments  |        Rate this now! 

I recently met with a manager who is transitioning into a new role (fantastic!!) and is training her replacement.
We were discussing the difficulties of handing over her work to the new hire, so just for fun I role-played how delegation usually works:

Step 1... DELEGATE: Give them a task.
Step 2... PROD: Follow up a few days later and ask "Did you get it done?" (accompanied by a wild finger-jabbing gesture).

Step 3... Wake up to the fact that you've just become your worst nightmare: A MICROMANAGER.
After my demonstration, the manager burst out laughing and asked if I had been reading her mind.

The TASK->PROD style of delegating leaves you feeling guilty of 'helicopter management', hovering over someone, sending them the message that you don't trust them to take ownership of their work. Or, if your style tends more toward conflict avoidance, you are left to guess at whether they will complete the task, and hope that a few passive-aggressive glances will guilt them into producing the goods.
Is there a better way? Well, Yes! In a nutshell, the model for effective delegating goes like this:

Step 1: Describe the overall vision or objective

And check for their buy-in.

Step 2: Co-create clear expectations

Instead of telling them what needs to be done, ask what they would need to do, and fill in gaps as necessary, to collaboratively create a set of action steps.

Step 3: Co-create accountability

This is the part most managers leave out, leading directly down the path to micromanagement. Co-creating accountability means asking them how they want to be accountable. For example, ask "How shall we check in?" Now as their leader, you must track accountabilities, to provide a role-model for taking these important commitments seriously.

Step 4: Positively challenge them to deliver a high standard of excellence.

Remind your team that they are smart, talented, and that you challenge them to deliver a high standard of excellence. Dare them to go for it!

Step 5: Give frequent feedback

Provide frequent feedback on where people are doing well, and re-direct them immediately if things go off course.

Step 6: Celebrate their success!

Now the most important step: acknowledge their success.

If you have caught yourself behaving a bit like a micromanager recently, your assignment is to review the above 6 steps, and identify which one you need to do more of.

About the Author

Jo Miller is CEO Women's Leadership Coaching Inc. To learn more about coaching and seminars, visit

Read more by Jo Miller

5 comments so far...

  • Important tips. When the question "How shall we check in?" is asked, what is the expected response/conversation? Is this a polite way to ask how and when the manager is going to check up on the employee's progress, or is the objective to have the employee offer his/her preferred method/timing of reporting back to manager?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Meg on 1st January 2010

  • I hear that a lot from women-- make a promise to yourself never to become THAT type of boss!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Jo Miller on 9th November 2007

  • I'm thinking back to all the jobs I've had in the past, man I wish more of my bosses had read this!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by mamajama on 9th November 2007

  • Thanks Florinda-- you're right, this leadership stuff and domestic management stuff have so much in common :-)

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Jo Miller on 18th September 2007

  • This is one of the best - and most concise - articles I've read on handling one of the biggest management challenges. (It can be a challenge with domestic management too.) Thanks, Jo!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 14th September 2007