A Simple Way Project Executives Can Quit Micromanaging Their Project Managers

A Simple Way Project Executives Can Quit Micromanaging Their Project Managers

I swore that we’d never get a dog.
My wife and I have five kids. Getting a dog is almost like having another kid and, at times, way more inconvenient, so what’s the point? My only daughter had a different perspective. She felt lonely as the middle child surrounded by two older and two younger brothers. She pitched the dog to me as a companion for her. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for my daughter, and she was patiently persistent. We got a dog. 

My daughter is captivated by the pup. 
She watches videos on dog-training, continually researches the best food, bedding, and leashes. She takes the dogs for walks, gets preoccupied with its moods, makes sure her toys are all in order. That’s a good thing because I don’t want to bother with any of that stuff. I don’t want to micromanage the dog.

The Project Executives (PX) that I coach are talented.
As Project Managers (PM), they succeeded because of their attention to detail. The problem is that when they get promoted into senior leadership roles, they need to take on a bigger picture perspective, managing PMs instead of managing projects. But they often have a tough time letting go. They feel driven to closely control the people who report to them, obsessing over stuff that others should be taking care of. Like my daughter, they can be micromanagers.

This article will explore three reasons people micromanage.
Then, I’ll share a practical method for overcoming micromanagement. If you know you do or suspect that you struggle with this issue, you’ll find it very helpful.

The first reason is perfectionism.
You know what that feels like, right? You like everything to be done right, in a precisely correct way. But perfectionism can often be the enemy of the good, mainly when the PMs who report to you are not as experienced or proficient as you.

Another reason PXs micromanage is that you don’t trust other people.
Sound familiar? You know that you can do a better job than the people who report to you. Keep in mind, they can do an outstanding job 80-90% of the time, and they don’t need you. But because of your trust issues, you tend to get stuck in and micromanage them when you should be standing back and allowing them to grow in their project management skills.

The third reason you struggle with micromanagement is that you like to be a hero.
You’re an expert problem solver. You enjoy swooping in like Superman: “Here I come to save the day!” That’s all well and good when there are challenging issues that other people can’t solve. But most of the problems that a PM faces, they’re able to overcome. Your goal should be to make the people you lead heroes so that your clients trust them and rely upon them instead of you.

That leads me to a practical way to stop micromanaging.
Specifically when you’re overseeing a Project Manager (PM) who’s working on a sizeable important project. When you’re in client meetings discussing project progress, defer to your PM. Make sure they answer the client’s questions. Put them at the center of attention, resist jumping in unless necessary. The second thing is to make it your goal to attend project update meetings once a month, so the client gets into a rhythm of working with your PM. This keeps you from being the focal point of the client’s attention and forces PM and client to come together to solve problems. Finally, attend the project meetings randomly, so the client doesn’t save up issues and hit you with them all at once.

Micromanagement hinders your effectiveness and your direct report’s progress.
Don’t let your perfectionism, lack of trust, and love of being the hero get in the way. Instead, make a concerted effort to allow your PMs to take center stage on every project they run, the go-to person for your client issues. Don’t sweat the small stuff that distracts you. Save yourself for the thorny issues that require your full attention.

Speaking of sweating the small stuff.
Last night, our dog invaded the kitchen and snatched and swallowed a piece of raw chicken marinated in onion and garlic. Onions and garlic are not suitable for canines, and the poor pup looked a bit green. My daughter was very concerned and focused all her attention and energy on making sure the dog was ok. I didn’t get involved, and the dog soon started to come around. The dog is a keeper, but my daughter is the PM of the dog. I will not be diving into the doggy details.

Your next steps
If you’re a Project Executive and you want to work on shifting more responsibility to your Project Managers, check out the 90 High-Performance Dashboard.

It’s a FREE framework that you can use to maximize your direct report’s performance and make your leadership more effective. Using it will help you to:

  • Get them clear on what’s most important
  • Ensure action and accountability
  • Deepen your relationship

Click this link to get the Dashboard, and reach out to me via this website if you have any questions.