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How to Avoid Micromanaging and Become a Great Coach Instead

Congratulations! You’ve been selected to lead a team and you’re excited about the opportunity ahead. You should be! But you may have already realized that managing a group of people comes with new ways of working that you haven’t experienced before.

You may have gotten used to getting things done on your own. Autonomy and independence worked great for you and helped you get this far.

Well, that’s about to change. You’re now responsible for managing others and with that comes new responsibilities and opportunities to learn and grow.

You may already have an idea of what does not make a good manager-someone who has a big ego or unchecked authority. These types of issues are obvious and you know your new position is not an excuse to get a big head or boss people around.

But be aware that there are subtle ways to be a poor manager. One of those is micromanaging the talent.  Micromanaging means telling another person how to do every aspect of their job. This approach not only makes people understandably angry but also makes them feel like their voice and approach isn’t valuable to the organization.

Great managers know when to let team members take their own approach to the work. Instead of trying to be an all-star player, great managers are more like coaches for their teams.

Here are four tips that will turn you away from micromanaging and towards being a great coach:

Ask your team what you can do to help

Instead of waiting impatiently for status updates (or jumping in and doing it yourself), ask your team what you can do to help support them. This is a shared team goal.

Try something like this:

“Good morning everyone! Just wanted to check in on our team deliverable to executive staff by the end of the week. What can I do to help? If you have questions or need clarity, I’m always available.”

Be approachable and build authentic relationships

Being an approachable manager is critical. Building trust takes time and needs to be established before your team faces a challenge. This way, when they need your help, they will trust that they can reach out without hesitation.  

They need to know that you have their back. Interact with them and learn how they are doing in a genuine way.  In your regular 1:1s ask them where they want to go in their career and make them confident that you will help them get there. Once in a while: take your team out to lunch, or provide breakfast to show them you really care about them.  

Teach by example, but only when necessary

Sometimes you need to roll up your sleeves to help the team learn something new that’s required to get the job done. When you recognize there is a gap in the team skill set, don’t be critical or patronizing.

Instead, teach by example in a way that inspires the team to participate. Participation will make them feel like they are contributing and learning from the time they spend watching you teach them how to do something new.

For example: if there’s a complicated technical or product issue your team does not have enough knowledge about – instead of just doing the work, gather the team in a room and show them how you approach solving the issue. Ask the team questions while you demonstrate to keep them engaged.

Always remember to say “thank you”

Those two words can go a long way – especially for someone who just worked a 9-hour day. Be genuine and sparing with the thank yous though, because too many dilutes them.

Next time you’re passing a team member’s desk who recently did a great job, stop and acknowledge their hard work and thank them. Another way: in the next team meeting in front of everyone make an announcement and acknowledge their hard work so others can see and applaud them as well.  

This not only makes the person feel valued, but also respected and will keep them happy on your team for years to come.