Management of staff is no easy task – especially in the pressured world of general practice – yet it’s something all practice managers need to deal with on an everyday basis. Go too far down the laissez-faire style of leadership and there’s potential for problems, just as is the case with micromanagement.
Most practice managers – certainly the majority we speak to – will tend to err towards the latter, micromanaging a little too much. The good news is that you’re not alone, with various studies into different management styles finding that jobs where more risk is involved, where mistakes can be costly, understandably lead to more involved management styles. However, these same studies suggest that micromanagement is not healthy, whatever the environment, for several reasons.
- Loss of control: Micromanaging is often performed when managers don’t want to lose control, yet the opposite can be true. That’s because the management tools at your disposal become very narrowed, until the only tool you have in reach is control. And when control is your only means of management, you usually end up losing it.
- Loss of trust: Your staff need to see you as a manager – if you’re constantly checking up on them that trust will disappear (or not be built up).
- Lack of autonomy: Micromanagement will lead your employees feel like they’re losing their autonomy. As a result, no one will go the extra mile for a task.
- Staff depend on you…too much: Staff will learn to depend on you, rather than having the confidence to perform tasks on their own.
- Staff will leave: Plenty of studies show that most people don’t take well to being micromanaged – and more often than not they will quit.
- You’ll burnout: Often overlooked is your own performance when micromanaging. It’s exhausting – and could very well burn you out. So avoid!
Identifying the signs of micromanagement
With the above in mind, it’s clear that micromanagement is a no-no for practice managers. But in a busy, highly pressured environment, how can you tell if guidance and leadership overbalances and becomes micromanagement? Here are a few questions to ask:
☐ Do you find it difficult to delegate tasks?
☐ Do you find yourself writing detailed, exacting plans when delegating tasks?
☐ Do you get frustrated when work isn’t completed to your standard or is done differently?
☐ Does your team complain about being controlled?
☐ Do your tasks suffer because you focus too much on the work of others?
☐ Are you convinced that projects will crash and burn without your continuous oversight and contribution?
☐ Do you always need to know where your employees are and what they’re doing?
☐ Do you solve issues in your team by yourself?
The more times you answer “yes,” the greater the chances that you are already in the micromanagement trap.
The GP practice without micromanaging
If you answered yes to some of the points above, there’s a danger you’re a micromanager. But what can you do about it?
One practice manager who admitted to us that they fell into the trap said they transformed their practice by adopting a culture of ‘owning tasks’.
“It was actually one of our partners that shared something they had heard about management on a training course they went to,” the PM told us. “I was talking about the problems I was having managing the team, as a new PM, and he told me that performance was enhanced when employees owned their tasks, as opposed to being told what to do.
“So, I did some research online and found a series of eight points that would help me lead, rather than manage. We’ve implemented the suggestions and I have a copy of these pinned to the wall behind my PC, so I don’t forget them!”
The eight points the PM uses are:
- Treat everybody as individuals We’re dealing with people and everybody is different. Some people will need more managing and clearer guidance than others, so don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach.
- Learn to let go Give your team the freedom to take responsibility for their tasks, and remember, it’s the results that count, not the tiniest steps along the way.
- Trust your team They have the skills to finish the job, they just need your support. Status checks once a week are of course important to keep an overview of the workplace, but make sure they aren’t too often or too overbearing.
- Delegate tasks Give your team tasks and let them sort out the details. Naturally, mistakes can happen, but don’t let fear control your decisions. A mistake or two is only human and won’t ruin the chances for a successful project.
- Become a better coach Every manager worries that results won’t be good enough, but the way to prevent this is often development rather than control. Find out your employees’ skills, give them tasks they’re up to, and help them improve.
- Build in bottom-up feedback Let your employees tell you about your leadership by giving them the chance to provide feedback. You can learn what they need and find habits you may have that are hurting your team rather than helping.
- Conduct one on one meetings Weekly (or bi-weekly) one on one meetings are a great way to keep in touch with your team and projects without being overbearing.
- Give result-oriented feedback Feedback is essential for your team and tasks. If results aren’t what you want, don’t personally attack employees for their mistakes. Instead, use constructive criticism and a focus on actionable changes to help employees grow.
“This change in mindset sadly came too late for one member of the team, who headed off to pastures new, but otherwise it has worked well,” the PM commented. “We’ve had no resignations for the last three years, so I must be doing something right!
“I think for me the key is to think about every member of the team differently, play to their strengths and, above all else, communicate well. The funny thing is,” the PM concludes, “now I’ve taken a step back, I have a greater view of what’s going on – and much more control!”
Are you guilty of micromanaging? Do you work for somebody senior who takes too much control over day-to-day tasks? If so, how do you deal with it? What suggestions can you share with your fellow PMs? Let us know by commenting below or take it to the Practice Index Forum.
Useful: The GP Practice Management Masterclass, available on the eLearning HUB, is highly recommended to develop your managerial skills. This six-part course covers all aspects of practice management, you can find out more here. You might also find this resource on Management by objectives [PLUS] helpful, as well our appraisal forms, in particular, our 360 degree appraisal feedback form [PLUS] to support you and your team.