How to motivate not micro manage - Signet Resources

Human Resources News - 1st July 2014

Every line manager dreams of having a team that is resourceful, driven and self motivated.  We all want it on a stick with a nice glass of cold milk next to it (or a glass of Pinot).  However, the truth is, getting a successful team is hard work, and can only be achieved by a strong leader.

When I started in management, I was naive, wet behind the ears myself, and had no idea how to motivate a team.  So instead I micro managed, to the extent that I feel it is necessary to offer an apology to those I mentored in my early years….

In watching my teams every move, forcing them to report every activity and behaviour they performed, I didn’t create a fully functioning high performing team.  Instead I created a culture of dependence, where no one would act on their own initiative, no one was willing to go the extra mile, and everyone was unsettled to the point of unhappy.

I have never worked in a business where micro management has been a long term sustainable leadership process.

What sort of manager are you?

If you are reading this trying to work out if you  are a micro manager see what your natural response is to this scenario….

You have passed an important task to a team member and have given a realistic deadline.

Do you a). Let them crack on with the job in hand and check progress at pre agreed times.


Do you b). Ask for progress updates randomly in the office? Send emails checking on status updates, and or drop by their desk to see how they are getting on.

If you feel more comfortable with option b, you may be prone to micro management.

Odds are you have a disillusioned team, one reluctant to act without your say so, and one that may be checking the job pages when they get home in the evening.

But if I leave them to get on with it they fail….

Micro managers can often reaffirm their own management style.  They try and let go by setting a task for a team member, walk away and don’t touch base till the deadline and then find the task is incomplete.

Frustrations run high and micro management returns with more control than ever….

Why did they fail?

Micro management often damages teams (and individuals) self esteem.  Meaning that when a completely opposite approach is used the worker will fail to attribute importance to the task set (because surely if it were important the line manager would be on his back…).  Or confidence levels will be so low that they won’t believe themselves capable of achieving the task set.

A good manager must motivate, and do so consistently.

Happy workers make great advocates of a business, they are your natural salespeople, remember this always when managing your team.


Set clear objectives with pre agreed times to update on how they are performing against the task set.  Don’t ask for updates outside of those pre agreed times.

If you find your employee is behind target on the task set, establish how they can catch up through a coaching not a telling session, and empower them to carry on.  Share your faith in them to succeed.


Know your employee, don’t set them an impossible task.  You will want your team to naturally embrace new challenges but don’t try and get someone who has just learnt to walk ready to start a marathon….

Ask them how they feel about the task, and gauge their comfort level.

Give them space

Let them get on with the job, don’t snap their concentration by interrupting their work, asking for updates….

Let them make up their own minds…

Empowerment is not about cliches on the wall, and pictures of mountain tops…  It is about being able to trust your team to make the right decisions without them always needing your guidance.

It is a skill knowing when to empower your team and one that needs to be earnt.  However your team need to know that they always have the chance to prove themselves.

It is proven that people engage when involved in the descion making process…  So find decisions to involve them in.

Simple things matter….

If you are looking to motivate a team to be successful, then always ensure you are doing the following….

Be positive and upbeat, no one responds to a negative leader..

Know what your team aspires to on an individual level.  Remember money is never a core motivator.

Ask for solutions not problems, telling them the answer is easy and dis-empowering.  Trusting your team to think is a great motivator.

Always hold two way communication with your team, get their thoughts and ideas, they will provide you with innovation.

Reward the result, not the activity.  It is results you need….

It is time to stop…..

Always following your own lead and your own ideas, you are the leader of a team not an individual.

Promoting a lack of time culture.  If you are vocal about not having enough hours in the day to do your role, how should someone less junior than you feel?

Sharing your woes in the office.  A good line manager should look like a swan, gliding perfectly over the water, with the feet pedaling furiously underneath the ripples.

Critiquing mistakes, we all make them.  Only punish an error that has occurred through laziness or poor effort.

Stop telling people what to do, instead create goals and expectations of results.

Motivate not micro manage and see what you can achieve….

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