The word Micromanager seems to have a negative connotation. But control freak is even worse. Let’s suppose you are a micromanager. What does this mean for your management style and for the way you do or do not delegate? What does it mean for the team and the team atmosphere? These are questions that have inspired thousands of blogs, articles and books. Micromanagers are getting a lot of attention.
Many managers still have a hard time with delegation. Ss if being a micromanager is really that bad?
Why are they afraid to give up control in spite of the clear benefits of empowering employees through delegation?
Delegation clearly increases the manager’s effectiveness. And when done appropriately, delegation still allows for control.
But several factors determine whether a manager will delegate or not.
Culture of tolerance
Your organisational culture has a powerful influence on manager behaviour. A culture of tolerance will make delegation easier. This is a culture characterised by tolerance of risk, support for employees and a high degree of autonomy for employees. In that kind of culture managers will feel more comfortable to delegate then they would in a risk-averse, non supportive and high control culture.
But managers vary in their propensity to delegate, even when they are working in a culture of tolerance. Some older research by Carrie R Leana has identified three factors that influence managers’ propensity to delegate.
(1) The most important is the manager’s perception of the employee’s competence. Managers consistently appear reluctant to delegate if they question their employee’s capability, trustworthiness or motivation to assume greater responsibility. (2) The second factor is the importance of the decision. Managers tend to delegate the less important decisions. (3) The third factor is the manager’s workload. Heavy workload causes stress and puts time pressure on managers, which leads to more delegation.
This research is in line with my own experiences and observations about delegation. A supportive culture that tolerates and even stimulates an active right to make errors will motivate some but not all managers to delegate in meaningful ways. This includes delegation of not only the less important decisions or tasks.
But even in a supportive culture, I have a hard time convincing managers who are not delegating. What is holding them back?
I honestly wouldn’t know.
The benefits of delegation are obvious. There are endless lists with those benefits. Experienced managers testify about how their life would simply become impossible if they would not delegate.
These are my personal favorites, mentioned in “Training in interpersonal skills”, the great work of Stephen Robins.
- Delegation frees up the manager’s time. Every manager gets the same time resource with which to work: 24 hours a day. The fact that managers differ so greatly in what they accomplish proves to the value of time management. Delegation is one of the means managers can use to manager their time more efficiently and effectively. Many decisions can be delegated with little or no loss in quality. This allows managers – especially those in middle and upper ranks – to focus on overall direction and coordination.
- Delegation can improve decision-making. In many cases decisions improve as a result of delegation. Why? Delegation pushes decisions down in the organisation. So the decision maker is closer to the problem and is likely to have better and more complete information about it. Employees can respond faster. This increases the likelihood that the final solution will be of higher quality.
- Delegation helps to develop employees. Delegation is an excellent way to stimulate an employee’s growth and development. It encourages them to expand their capabilities and knowledge. Moreover it helps them develop their decision-making skills and prepares them for future promotion opportunities.
- Delegation enhances employee commitment. No matter how good a decision is, it still needs execution. One means to improve the quality of implementation is to increase the commitment of those in charge of the execution. Employees are more likely to enthusiastically embrace a decision they made than when the decision is imposed from above. Delegation positively influences commitment.
- Delegation improves manager-employee relations. The act of delegation shows that the manager trusts the delegatee. This explicit demonstration of support for an employee often leads to better interpersonal relations between the manager and the employee.
So far these arguments make sense. I cannot imagine how managers could be indifferent to these benefits? Unless still other elements are of importance…
Could it be that the real difficulty for some managers is not their (non) willingness? Maybe they just do not know how to delegate?
There is one argument I hear often. “It’s not that I don’t trust him/her or think (s)he is not capable, but explaining everything to him/her would cost much more effort and time than… doing it myself !”
Oh yes. They would like to delegate, if they just knew how to do it. And these are the questions they ask:
- How do you know what to delegate to whom?
- How do you say to somebody that you are delegating something to him/her ?
- How do you make sure not to create any conflicts within the team if another one thought to get that responsibility ?
- How do you deal with conflicts if they emerge after all?
- How do you follow up?
- How do you make sure that you do not end up in “wasting” even more time rather than “gaining” time through all this?
In other words, what are key delegation skills managers need to develop in order to feel comfortably enough to effectively delegate ?
In one of my next blogs, I will go in detail about delegation skills. In the meantime, enjoy the benefits!