When I think about people who worry A LOT, one friend of mine (let’s call him “Sam”) comes immediately to mind. He worries about anything and everything.
You know the type. If there’s anything one can imagine going wrong, Sam has thought about it and built a contingency plan for it. He is the target audience for all of those “Worse Case Scenario” books.
In many cases, I suppose it’s good to walk through life prepared for danger. Still, being a worrier is a burden, not just to Sam, but also to others around him. I know this because I know people who work for Sam, and I see how his highly developed sense of worry translates into something quite burdensome for his staff… micro-managing behavior. Because Sam worries, he over-manages his staff in an effort to keep things under his power. Sam is the epitome and example of this principle.
Worry is a symptom of someone who fears losing control.
The way I see it, Sam’s problem is about control. You see, control is an illusion. A person may act as if he is in charge and on some days he may even feel like he is managing everything perfectly, but those feelings are misleading. The truth is that we’re all one snowstorm, phone call, or accident away from having our whole world changed. The control that we think we have isn’t as stable, permanent, or guaranteed as we’d like to believe.
Consider how much havoc something as simple as the weather (let alone an illness or a surprise letter from the IRS) can wreak on your day. The issue isn’t whether or not you’re in control (because you’re not), the issue is whether you or not you allow your life to be governed and ruled by the worry over those potential problems.. Extrapolate worry over many days and spread it throughout assorted categories, and this worry will seep out of you as a frantic attempt to control every outcome. One of these desperate attempts shows up as micro-management of others.
In fact, if yesterday’s post hit a little close to home, and you think that you might have micro managing tendencies, here are a few things you can do to stop hovering and start trusting.
- Start a dialog with your team
- Humble yourself and tell your group that you worry that you might be a micro-manager and that you want to stop communicating distrust. You’ll be shocked how much this act of transparent confession will register with them….and how much they might agree with you! The greatest benefit is that this will help create a safe environment for people to talk with you.
- Know this, though; you can ask your team if they feel over-managed, but most people (even with the intro above) won’t feel safe enough to be completely candid. They will hedge and offer reassurances that everything’s fine. Don’t let that throw you off your plan. Keep pushing for dialogue and open communication channels.
- Unplug from the information flow
- Believe it or not, you don’t need to know everything everyone is doing. Yes, micro-manager-(wo)man, you CAN survive without knowing where everyone spends every second of his or her day, exactly what they are working on, and every conversation that they are having!
- Instead of hovering over every fact, back up from the information flow. Leave some room for them to work. Ask for summaries, not play-by-plays of projects assigned to your team.
- Ask for feedback on how you can help/improve and don’t argue with what you hear!
- Instead of burning energy talking about the work of others, try asking a few questions on how YOU can work better. Some of these questions could be: How can I help you? What would you like to see that’s different from me? If you could change something about how I/we operate, what would it be? How can I give you more space to work while not leaving you to fail?
- Ask someone outside of your group and/or reporting structure to give you feedback on your style. They’ll bring a valuable perspective from the outside in. If you want to get even better advice from them, ask them to survey some of your team for their thoughts before they tell you theirs.
- Work with a coach.
- Take on more work!
- The more you own your own projects, the less time you’ll have to worry about the rest of the group. Bottom line.
Keep practicing these skills. Initially they will feel unnatural and unwieldy. If you’re used to hovering, backing off won’t be easy, but will be worth it. Don’t expect or promise immediate change; express a commitment to growth.
You can’t control as much as you think in this world, but you CAN control you. Get started today…