“Yeah, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and come into the office this weekend.”
~Lumbergh, Office Space
7 in 10 people report feeling micromanaged at work, yet only 3 in 10 managers self-report micromanagement tendencies. Of course, everyone hates working for a micromanager but inevitably, most fall into the same controlling tendencies as their former managers.
In this episode, Frank and Ian dive into tangible steps you can take if your boss is sucking the life out of you at work. Next, we examine why managers take this overbearing approach and how you might be part of the problem. Finally, we offer an approach you can take with your manager that gets them to ease up on the reigns and let you do your job with more autonomy.
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Do You Work For A Micromanager?
5 Steps To Get Your Boss Out Of Your Hair
This episode is about how to deal with the micromanager, which I feel very qualified to talk to our loyal readers about because I deal with Frank. Every Wednesday, he is all over me with all of his employees poking at me, picking at me, and following up with me. I am very good at being told exactly how I should do things.
I feel exactly the same. You’re like, “Frankie, what do you do? What do you do at this time?” We are both equally qualified to talk about this. We’re probably both micromanagers from time to time who would never ever believe the subject.
It’s true. Whenever I do leadership essentials with a new management team, I do a one-on-one with everyone and try to get to know them a little bit. I ask questions like, “How long have you been a manager? Tell me about your team. What’s your style? What are your strengths? Where would you like to get better?” It is hilarious how many people, without me ever saying the word micromanage, will volunteer, “I am not a micromanager and I hate micromanagers.” I would say it is close to 70%. It’s got to be where I say, “What’s your style?” People always are like, “I’m not a micromanager,” really quickly. I’m like, “I just asked you what your style was.” It’s almost like they have this guilty feeling because they know they probably do it a little too much and they hate being micromanaged.
There’s a study from Gallup that I put in my leadership essentials class. You’ve been through the class. You probably remember this little piece. It was that 75% of employees feel like their manager shows micromanagement tendencies, yet only 20% of managers in the same survey said they have micromanagement tendencies. The old 90% of men feel like they’re above-average lovers, type-thing where it’s not possible mathematically.
People all feel like they have micromanagers over them, and managers all feel like they’re not micromanagers. Somewhere, there’s this gap. A lot of people who micromanage don’t know they’re doing it. They don’t know that that’s how they’re treating people or how they’re behaving. They feel like that’s just part of their job that they should be doing.
It’s a human nature thing. Most people are not inherently good managers. What I would like to think is I’m not a micromanager, but the truth is I’m not a micromanager most of the time. Sometimes, I’m an incredible micromanager. If something needs to be exactly specific or there are things that you must do a certain way, it’s micromanagement. We’ve talked about this before with children. If there’s an emergency situation and your kids are about to run through a street, you’re 100% a micromanager during those moments. What I think is we’ve societally become so opposed to micromanagement. We know it’s bad because we’ve all lived through it. Nobody wants to emulate it, but the thing is, there are different parts of management that you need to embrace.
There are periods when you need to be a micromanager and when you need to give people the ability to have space. NVR had four quadrants. Ian has done something similar in his training where there are four different quadrants. There’s the enthusiastic beginner, frustrated second staff, person who’s almost competent, and person who’s proud. Inside those four different quadrants is a myriad of opportunities and activities. You could be an incredibly great worker, but when you’re given a new set of tasks, you need some micromanagement there in order to do it. What we’re going to talk about is what to avoid, what to embrace, and how to communicate it. If you do those things very well, you can be a great manager even though there’s a component of you that allows you to have to micromanage.
Thank you. What’s the most egregious example of micromanagement you can remember in your career as an employee where you felt suffocated?
Usually, it happens to people that were not great at their job. Every time I thought that I was being micromanaged, it was somebody who was promoted. They wanted to prove that they were the person who was in charge, and they would not let you do anything. In contrast, the people who were the best came up to me and said, “I looked around. I see you’re a great performer. I’m new to this. I want to build a relationship with you and become allies. How can we work together?” That was the stark contrast.75% of employees feel like their manager shows micromanagement tendencies yet only 20% of managers in the same survey said that they have micromanagement tendencies. Click To Tweet
I can think of this going all the way back to your favorite, the Outback, through all of my tenure at Ryan Homes. Even in things that I do, like 1099, the people who aren’t terribly competent or are bad communicators are the ones who are like, “Do this.” It’s like, “Tell me what you’re looking for. Communicate it to me.” That’s best. What about you? What’s the worst or most egregious case that you can remember?
The worst I can ever remember was the period we went through after the financial crisis. The government created this organization called the CFPB, Consumer and Finance Protection Bureau, and they created all of these rules in home lending, like new documents and new disclosures. They had timing requirements. It was incredibly tedious.
The government trying to help protect consumers made things miserable for them. We failed a couple of audits. All of our auditors throughout the company descended upon everybody. It was awful. We added all kinds of auditors. We had a president whose main state of goal in the world was to pass audits. That was it. We didn’t talk about customers, revenue, or anything anymore. You had people filling out checklists that were checking to see that other people had done their checklists. It was the old four people with a gun to the back of someone else’s head checking everybody.
Remember the scene in Casino where it was like, “We had people checking the money people and they were checking the people that check the money people. We then had someone who checked the guy who checked the guy.” Do you remember that whole scene? It was real. They didn’t even trust that guy. It got to a place where even I was checking checkers of checkers. Our manager was incredibly heavy-handed in it.
The result ended up being half our company left. Some of our absolute best producers said, “F this place,” because other companies weren’t doing it. That president ended up having to way back off and get out of the mix. He did the right thing by saying, “Here’s the outcome I need. I’m not going to manage every little step you take anymore and tell you to do it as I did.” It took him about two years and a lot of scorched earth to figure it out.
I’m going to weigh in with something on this. What you said sparked something in my brain about what micromanagement is. Micromanagement comes from two places, an inability to fully understand the job which I talked about or it’s a loss of focus on what’s important. I’ll give you two examples. The biggest micromanagers I’ve ever seen talk about them. They don’t talk about you. It’s always me. It has nothing to do with you or us. Listen to their words. If they say I or my, that’s a micromanager. A good collaborative manager says us, we, them, or together. You feel those things.
In this instance, Ian talked about the laws. The other thing that you lose sight of is you lose focus on the customer. That comes down to micromanaging as well. There have been these new laws. We’re like, “Let’s think about how do we protect our ass, which is selfish thinking versus how does this affect the customer? How do we make sure the customer experience is great while checking these boxes?” That’s the difference between a great manager and a micromanager.
You get lost in these details, and what happens is you lose quorum. Nobody wants to listen to you anymore. They no longer buy into the mission. You’re like, “Get on board.” They’re like, “If you were better at explaining it or if you had a better mission, I’d get on board better.” What ends up happening is they can’t see that they’re wrong. They push their agenda on you down your throat to a point people leave or different things happen.
There are two cohorts that can learn from this show. There are people that are dealing with a micromanager and trying to understand, “Why is this happening? What can I do about it?” There are managers who are tuning in to this show and thinking, “Maybe I’m not a micromanager. Maybe I am.” When you read this, try to think, “Are there behaviors that I’m regularly exhibiting that are probably perceived as micromanagement? Am I giving my people the rope to have conversations with me about laying off a little bit? Am I my treating everyone the same way?” We’re going to go through some steps that you can take as an employee.
Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
The number one we’re going to talk about is one of my favorite quotes in business, which is, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” If you are feeling micromanaged, what you have to do is put your ego to the side and put yourself in your manager’s shoes. You have to ask the question, “Why are they behaving this way?”
I love to assume positive intent. I lead this by saying that almost every manager always tells me, “I’m not a micromanager.” No one wants to be known as a micromanager. No one has ever proudly said, “One of my strengths is the ability to micromanage the hell out of people.” No one likes being micromanaged, and you certainly don’t want to be known as one.
Assume that people have a positive intent. They want to be a good manager, make their employees happy, be popular, and get results. They don’t want to be known as a micromanager. If you can assume positive intent, try to understand why this is happening. There are a lot of reasons. You brought one of the first ones up. Are they new? Did they not know what a manager is supposed to be doing?
When a new manager gets promoted, what you have to understand is they came from an individual contributor role. They were promoted because they controlled everything. Let’s take a project manager. When you were a good construction manager, you were into the details. You were walking around, looking at your sites, talking to your subs, and following up on your checklist every day. You had homes to build, and you were going to build them to an exacting standard that Frank Cava had. You went steps further than most of the guys in there. You’ve told me about it before because you had a degree in it.
The ability to control everything within your control as an individual contributor got you known as one of the best. They promote you to manage those folks. It’s hard to deprogram yourself from that of controlling every variable because being a great manager isn’t the same. You don’t walk around with the checklist and follow up with everyone all day and tell them how to do things, whereas you might do that in an individual contributor role.
I had gotten a couple of different promotions, but when I had my own group of people to manage, I was managing project managers. Someone handed me this thing and they called it The Strengths Interview. I took every single person I was managing. There were 8 or 9 people. I sat all of them down within the first 2 or 3 weeks. I went through it with them and talked to them about it.
The other thing I did was I asked one of the other managers who I trusted. I said, “Who’s good and who’s not?” He told me, “Here are your 2 or 3 stars. These people require a lot of your time.” What I did in the strengths interview is the guys that were strong all told me in their answers, “I’m pretty good at this. This is how I like to be managed.” I asked them that question and I knew pretty early.Seek first to understand then be understood. Assume that people have a positive intent. Click To Tweet
I remember being in construction and sales, having good bosses and bad bosses. I wanted to emulate the good ones and learn from the mistakes of the bad ones. That was my way of doing it. I was like, “I’m being plopped down here into a universe that’s already spinning. All I need to do is not stop that.” If there are people that require more help, help them. I don’t know how it all happened cosmically, but I remember being in that role.
We’ve talked about this before multiple times. You get to make your mark on a team, but the best thing you can do to start is to not ruffle too many feathers. Come in, listen, understand, ask questions, and don’t take over. I have hired two people at a very high level within a company. One was fired. The other is thriving. The person who thrived walked around with a notepad and took notes. He was very quiet. He asked questions. He was humble, got on the phones, and did low-level stuff. The other guy barked orders at everybody, and nobody listened to him. He’s gone. The person who embraced from the bottom up did it very quickly because he has a high level of competence. That’s the kind of person people flock to and want to work with because of that approach.
Sometimes, people don’t know what they should be doing as new managers. We’ll get into ways that you can handle someone that doesn’t know they’re making people feel lousy. I’ve seen a lot of new managers who don’t understand their success. The way they did things is completely attributed to their strengths, which are the things that they are uniquely good at in their set of experiences. The way they did things to get results, they assume, “If everyone does it the way I did it, we’ll get great results. I know the path to winning.” They become overly prescriptive in telling people exactly how they should do their job. That’s when you start to feel suffocated.
Along the lines, that’s one reason. Along the seek first to understand and be understood, everyone has a boss. Even the owner of a company has a boss. You’ve got investors in your business and bankers that have lent you money that you have to explain yourself. Frank could get a call from any one of his banks that he’s got millions of dollars of loans out with, and they say, “I need a tax return. I’d like to look at your bank deposits and see how you’re doing with your cashflow.” Frank’s got to go do it. He’s got to go show them, and that’s it.
We all have forces that we’re feeling. Your boss might not want to micromanage, but he or she might be getting micromanaged. Their boss might want a lot of detail, so they have to do it because someone is asking them to do it. Maybe your boss isn’t performing well or they’re not ranked well against their peers, so they’re failing and they keep surprising their boss with poor results. The worse their results are and the more they fail, the more controlling they want to be. They’re like, “Screw this. I’m not having that conversation with my boss any more. I’m sick of getting yelled at. I keep screwing up. I am going to get all over everything. Nothing is going to slip through the cracks anymore,” because they are afraid of failure.
A lot of times, what I see as a heavy micromanaging culture is usually a culture where from the top-down, failure is not handled well. It is a fixed mindset. Failure is not looked at as an opportunity to grow, get better, or what do we learn from it? It’s, “You’re a dumbass. How’d this happen?” That’s how it’s handled, so then everyone micromanages and controls. It gets very secretive. No one shares and everyone tries to control the whole process.
We went through something at construction. We talked about the pillars of construction and some roles. One of the roles is to be a conduit. If I ask you what being a conduit means, what do you think?
I see it as someone who enables someone to be better rather than someone who chokes off their performance.
The choke-off is a blocker, and a conduit is something that someone flows through. We talked about being someone with whom something flows through. I learned this lesson years ago. My guess is if you’re in construction and you took the SATs, your verbal is way worse than your math. You’re more of an analytic. You’re a math person. You’re an engineer. You’re not a communicator. What people do is they suck at communicating, so they suffocate. They don’t lean into communication.
Communication is one of the things that sets our species apart. We’ve been doing it for 100,000 years. There are thousands of languages. If you can communicate with other people, you can become a conduit. What I’ve noticed is most people that are micromanagers don’t have the words. They don’t have the ability. They can’t talk or communicate, so they become a blocker. It comes from an inability to understand or communicate. It’s very hard to seek first and understand than be understood if you don’t even know how to ask the question and you just jump in. Those are the things that I look at.
Think of yourself as a conduit. The best managers you’ve ever had are conduits. Those people will be able to hold a pen and a notepad, and they ask a ton of questions. The best advice I’ve ever been given is, “The good Lord blessed you with two ears and one mouth for a reason. Shut your freaking mouth and listen.” The best thing you can do as a manager is to listen.
If you’re an employee and you’re starting off on your first step, the biggest thing that we’d like to impart to you is to have some empathy for your boss. They are under pressure and stress. If they’re micromanaging you, there is a good chance they’re feeling more stressed than the average bear. That might be Imposter syndrome. That might be a boss who they’re in a doghouse with. That might be that they are not performing well against their peers and their competitive person is bothering them. They don’t know how else to manage you, and this is why they’re doing it. We’re going to get into some steps on how to help them see it and trust you a little more.
I know we’re going to lead into it with our next points. There is a woman that works here that came up to me. We had some tumultuous times in the last couple of months. She came up to me and goes, “How are you?” I’m like, “I’m good.” She’s like, “No, how are you?” I blow it off a second time. She’s like, “Seriously, it’s been a hard couple of weeks. How are you?” I realized she cared and wanted to listen. What that did for me is it made me want to trust that person and talk to that person because I realized they’re not just thinking about themselves. They’re thinking about the broader picture and a little bit about me. That makes me, as a manager and an owner, put my guard down and talk to that person. That’s a way that you can break that down. You might be able to help, but you’ve got to break through that barrier first.
Number one is asking yourself the question, “Why is my boss doing this? What pressures are they feeling?” Number two is looking inside. You need to try to be honest and objective. A line that I’ve always used with people is, “Are you earning this micromanagement?” I’ll look right at someone. If I have someone that I have to follow up with all the time, I will call a time out and say, “Do you like me following up with you this much? Do you enjoy these little status meetings I have to have with you every week? I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t. I got a bunch of other shit that I could be doing than having status follow-up meetings with Frank. Why do I have them?”
I’m like, “Do you like them?” They’re like, “No, I don’t.” I’m like, “Do you understand why we have them? Do you think I’m doing this because I like to punish?” They’re like, “No.” I’m like, “Why do you think I’m doing it?” They’re like, “I’ve missed a lot of deadlines. “I’m like, “You’ve missed a lot of deadlines, so I have to add a layer of control, which is follow up with you. What can you do so we don’t have these weekly status meetings?”
A lot of times, when you’re getting micromanaged and feel singled out, go look at your results. Are you missing deadlines? Are you performing? Are you one of the best performers? Are you middling in the middle somewhere? Are you underperforming where your talent is? Are you more experienced than some people on your team who are getting better results? How often do you surprise your boss with bad news? That’s a great question to ask yourself. Often, you have to call your boss and say, “I’m sorry to have to share this with you, but I’ve got some bad news.” If it’s often, you probably deserve some micromanagement.Everyone has a boss. Click To Tweet
If you can’t answer the questions that I laid out with 100% certainty, your boss likely doesn’t completely trust you. It’s not your boss’ job to figure that out. It’s your job to get your boss to trust you, like it’s your job as a company to get your customer to trust you 100%. It’s your job as the employee. In the employee and manager relationship, it is your job to get 100% certainty and trust from your boss. You do it with a high say-do ratio. When you say you’re going to do something, do you do it? The closer you approach 100%, the less micromanagement you will likely feel because they won’t have time to mess with you. They’ll be onto the person who’s dropping the ball at the time and surprising them, not you. You will become invisible, which is what you want as an employee.
What I would ask you is this. How far into your career were you as a manager before you started having status meetings with people and saying, “You’re screwing up.” When did you have those? Was it immediately? Did it take a little time?
It took me time to start putting some of that stuff in place.
That’s right. It’s because you were a seasoned manager. You knew how to deal with it and not be a micromanager. You knew how to communicate, call it out, and talk to people. That takes time. Those are the things that 100% take time to develop as a manager. If you’re a new manager, you need to understand this is part of the process. You have to feel comfortable and get your footing. If you do feel like you’re getting micromanaged, Ian laid it out loud very well. These are the reasons you’re getting micromanaged.
Think of the pressure that other people are under. You clearly, as a worker or an employee, have pressure on you. Your pressure is you need to do the job, get the paycheck, and pay the bills. Think about the person managing you because so do they, but they don’t get to do the hands-on stuff anymore. You do. It’s up to you to perform, and that’s how they’re getting managed.
If you’re failing in these ways, the best thing you can do is jump in and do. That’s what causes some of the micromanaging that Ian is talking about. There’s an honesty thing. If you’re honest and open to these things, you realize it pretty quickly and can fix it if you’re being micromanaged or if you are a micromanager. You have to look at it from that perspective. There’s typically a reason.
All of that is great. My catcher is on my little youth baseball team. Some of them, I let them call pitches, and I trust them because they won’t do anything stupid. Other ones, I let them call pitches and they’re goofing around. They’re throwing 3 out of the first 4 pitches as curve balls, so then we’ve walked someone. They’re like, “That’s off. I’m back on pitches.” I’m like, “You’re a knucklehead. We’ve talked about this. If you don’t want me controlling and telling you what to do all the time, make smart decisions. If you always swing at the first pitch over your head, I’m probably going to make you take the first pitch every time, no matter if you grumble at me or not.”
“If I give you a hit away and I see you take one right in your eyes, you’ve earned it. You know how to manage in a bat. If you keep doing knuckleheaded things when I give you autonomy and agency to go make decisions and you screw up every time, I’m probably going to get a little more controlling because I’m trying to win a game here. I’m trying to get the team to do the best we can.”
I’ll give an example of not micromanaging but macro managing. I was on Instagram. Ian was compelled to buy the shirt he is wearing, which is a Motley Crue knockoff from the ‘80s. There’s a little slogan on there. It says, “Too fast for love.” Nobody from Motley Crue says they’re too fast for sex but too fast for love, which means we get in and we get out. That’s macro-management. That is promoting a theme. That is the way that you could promote something. If you don’t come out with your billboard, what happens, in essence, is you must micromanage. You can manage it from the top line or you can manage it from the bottom. That’s how branding, marketing, strategy, and all those things play in so it doesn’t make its way to micromanagement.
Meet the Deadline
Number three, if you don’t want to be micromanaged, and I’d love to hear your take on this, meeting every deadline and being the last to meet every deadline are two very different things. When the deadline happens, everyone’s got to get something done. If you’re the person who’s always desperately sliding in at the last second to get something done, you’re the type of person that a manager’s going to check in with because they’re always going to be stressed.
When our buddy, Paxson, invests in our real estate deals, he gets a ton of micromanagement from me and Frank. He’s earned it because he’s always the last guy to turn something in. We joke, “It’s going to be him or Sue who’s turning in their money last.” We come up with different reasons why they’re going to be last. It could also be Frank’s brother, Teddy, who is usually late. We know who’s going to be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. We know the top three that’ll come in, and we always know who’s going to be last. They get these extra control steps because we need the money. We will have to follow up and put things in place to get it done.
Our number three that we would say is to make a habit and build a personal brand as someone who’s normally early. Someone who is normally early doesn’t get any micromanagement. They don’t get followed up on. You don’t have to poke at them on things. If your boss is always checking like, “I’m checking in to see how we’re doing. Do you remember that deadline? Are we still on track to get that done on time?” You’re probably the kind of person that doesn’t communicate as you’re working on something, so you only communicate right when you get it done, and you do it right at the deadline.
You are like an elementary school kid who studies at 10:00 at night for an exam that they knew about weeks ago. That’s very raw for me because I have two elementary kids that do that to me all the time. They’re like, “I got a Math test tomorrow,” and it’s 10:00 and they’re tired. I’m like, “When did you know about this?” They’re like, “Two weeks ago?” I’m like, “Now, I’m going to ask you every day of your life what tests you have coming up and what’s going on.” That annoys them. They roll their eyes at me. I’m like, “If you could be proactive, I wouldn’t be a pain in your ass all the time.”
Making it a habit to be early is Ian’s talking point. I will make a different talking point and say make a habit of being reliable. If you don’t want to be micromanaged, be reliable. What does reliable look like? If you’re in construction, your houses are finished on time, on schedule, and on budget. If something is going wrong, you make a phone call before someone else hears about it.
My best managers call me up and say, “There’s a problem. I think you should know about it.” I don’t micromanage them because they call me and say, “This is coming.” If the opposite happens and I hear something before they tell me, I’m like, “So-and-so did this. I heard this.” They’re like, “I heard about it.” They know they’re reliable. They’re on top of it. They’re like, “I haven’t got enough information yet to call you. Give me a little bit more time.” That person has earned the right for me not to micromanage them because they’re proactive, reliable, and prepared.
Being prepared is huge. What does being prepared look like? It depends on your job. If you go to a meeting and your boss asks you a question, you know your stuff or you’re fumbling around and you’re like, “I got to get back to you.” People remember that. That’s another way to be early. Be prepared. Have good answers if you’re called on.Your boss might not want to micromanage but he/she might be getting micromanaged. Click To Tweet
Ian’s catcher doesn’t call three curve balls. He calls outside corner fastballs three times in a row. The guy smashes one over the fence. He goes, “Why the hell would you call that fastball?” The kid goes, “I watched the last four bats and he was struggling to hit off the corner of the plate so I decided to put it there.” He goes, “He adjusted his feet this time. I missed that.” The kid made a good series of decisions. He missed something. He’s human. He’s going to learn if he sees he adjusted his feet and like, “You need to go back inside versus going outside because it’s crowding the plate.”
He could explain his reasoning. Even if it was still the best percentage play, he got it. There’s nothing to explain.
That’s a good answer. It’s a well-thought answer. It’s not showing up and saying, “There’s nothing there.” There’s something to it. You’re a contributor. When I say you’re a contributor to something, it is when something is actively going on and you’re not always so far behind. You can jump into something. Think about when it’s time to order food. There’s always somebody on a diet or somebody that has these ridiculous things with the way they eat. They can’t eat dairy or meat. It’s a limiter. You’re like, “We’re thinking about ordering pizza and ice cream.” Who doesn’t love pizza and ice cream? Those are the people that are lactose intolerant or that are on a diet. If you’re not thinking about this when the spur of the moment happens, you can’t do it because of the fact that you’re not prepared for the moment.
Over time, people are smart, pay attention, listen, look at you, and think you’re an asset or a liability. If you hit your schedules, do what you say you’re going to do, and follow up, all that stuff works. If you miss a deadline but you pick up the phone, call or text me and say, “I know I have a deadline at 3:00. I’m not going to hit it for these three reasons. I need to move it to this particular time,” I still trust that person. They had admitted what was happening. They told me about it. They kept me in the loop. These are the things that are all allowing Ian’s point of being early. They show that you’re conscious, aware, and on top of it.
The person you don’t trust is the one that loses track of deadlines. As long as you know of the deadline and you had something due and proactively tell me, “This is going to be a problem to hit this. Here are my reasons,” I still trust you even though you might miss that one because I know that you take deadlines seriously. You just have too much on your plate. I love two things you said there. Be proactive and be prepared.
What a lot of people do that is micromanagement is they see a problem coming and they hope they’re going to fix it. Maybe they work really hard to fix it, but they see it coming. They see the storm coming and try to fix it before their boss finds out about it. Before too long, the problem has spiraled. It’s then big and they have to go fess up. They’re like, “Now that I got to go fess up, it’s a bigger problem and I’ve surprised my boss.”
What you don’t want to do is make a habit of surprising your boss by missing something or a problem coming that you hadn’t made them aware of. Maybe your manager could have helped you with some resources or they would have had a different way to approach it that they could have come up with. Their experience could have helped you with it. If you make a habit of being late and surprising your boss, you’re going to get micromanaged, and you probably deserve it because their job is to get results too.
Your kids in the math test example, how many times did they sprung a math test on you at 10:00 at night?
Enough where it’s frustrating.
The answer isn’t once. Since it happens multiple times, you’re like, “I see a condition. I see a pattern. I need to now micromanage this pattern. If I don’t, this is going to happen again.” It’s conditioning, and then eventually, IJ or Madison will say to you, “I got it. My Math test is every two weeks. I’m preparing now. This is my new plan.” It can then transition. Until it transitions, that’s going to happen over and over.
Take Away Your Manager’s Guesswork
Number four, take away your manager’s guesswork. What you don’t want is your manager guessing what you’re up to or what you’re working on. A lot of people take this approach of, “My work should speak for itself. If I’m getting results, why do I need to be keeping someone in the loop?” That’s the wrong approach, especially if you have any manager or any boss with micromanagement tendencies. Ask yourself, “How proactive am I in updating my manager on what I’m working on? Even things that aren’t deadlines or problems I’m talking about, how do I update things?”
I’ll give an example. Frank and I, when we raise money, it’s significant to people. It’s $100,000 to $250,000 of their personal funds that we’re taking. It’s natural for them to be nervous, especially when you’re raising money during COVID. I’ll guarantee you there are some nervous investors that Frank and I have because the entire market melted down. Stocks, Crypto, and Bonds are down. Real estate is starting to go down. We probably have some nervous investors because everything else they own has gone down.
One thing that Frank and I like to do is before they ask, we’ve conditioned them that every quarter when they get a check, they get an update on the progress we’re making and how we’re doing. We’ll tell them, “Here are some things that are a little uglier than the last time we talked about. Here are some things that are better.” He and I spend time on this. We could send checks and not explain it. We can do that. Most promoters of real estate would do something like that, but we take time. He and I get on a video call. We go through the stats and our proforma. We look at what’s the same and what’s changed. We try to put a good comprehensive update together.
By doing that, you and I have never had one investor reach out in the middle of a quarter and be like, “Is everything okay?” It’s because every three months, they know they’re going to get 1) A check and 2) A solid update from us with pictures and progress that Frank’s team is doing. We go into great detail to take the guesswork away. We don’t make them guess, “How are you guys doing?” That’s important with your manager as well. Let them know what you’re working on.
You can say, “Here are all the things I’m working on. Here’s what’s going well. Here’s what I’ve taken an initiative on. Here’s what I’m being proactive about. Here are some things that aren’t going the way I would like them to go. Here’s where I’m stuck. Do you have any thoughts on this?” Be proactive. They don’t need to follow up with you when you are the one going to them to tell them what you’re up to.
Let me weigh in specifically on the deals we’ve done together with finance. What we do in the very beginning is build a proforma or a deck. We’ve done PowerPoints or episodes on this. The first thing we tell them is, “This is what we’re doing. This is why we’re doing it. These are the reasons.” We then lay out right then and there, “Here is our communication schedule. We will give you a quarterly written update.” In the quarterly written update, we tell them, “This is what we told you last quarter. This is where we’re at this quarter. This is where we’ve exceeded expectations. This is where we’ve not met expectations and something new has come up.”The person you don't trust is the one that loses track of deadlines. Click To Tweet
We’ll say, “At the end of Q1, you’re going to hear from us again on this day. We’ll talk about where we’re at that moment. This is where we think we’ll be. Anything between now and then, call us, but if not, you’ll hear from us. In this instance, by August 15th, you’ll hear from us.” We’ve got two months to write the letter and put it out. People know the check comes on time because they get the communication.
It’s more than just telling them. We tell them everything. We tell them upfront, during, and what’s coming next. We hit those deadlines, and then we remind people, “We told you that you would get this email from us by August 15th. It’s only August 4th, but we want to get it out to you early this quarter because we have something good to talk to you about.” It instills confidence.
Something could change. They could have borrowed this money that they gave us on margin. They get a margin call and they need to call us. We haven’t dealt with that yet. We could, but that could be something that starts to come up and people will call. At the same time, by and large, we’re controlling the masses. We raised sixteen people on this last deal. If there is a problem, we’ll probably hear from 1 or 2. It’s not going to be all sixteen because they know, and we satisfy them. If you think of any of your other investments, we’re being more proactive than anybody. It’s not like Tim Cook calls them when Apple stocks go down, gives them an update, and that’s it. There’s something scheduled.
Summarizing that, if you are feeling micromanaged, it could be that you are doing a poor job of communicating with your manager about what you’re up to. Ask yourself, “If I was communicating more proactively and more frequently and I was sharing more, would my manager have less reason to follow up with me and tell me exactly what I should be doing?” That’s how you build trust. You tell your manager what you’re doing. Don’t forget. They are paying you to get a certain outcome or result. It is their right to ask you what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and what you’re accomplishing. The fact that they’re paying you should mean that you should be telling them exactly what you’re working on.
The best example of taking out the guesswork is this. It is Eminem in the 8 Mile final scene, the battle scene. He tells them everything they could possibly make fun of him for. The competition is over. There’s no need for that guy to rap because Eminem did it for them. It’s the same thing with the boss. If you’re proactive, there’s nothing for them to tell you. I have people who send me weekly roundups. I spent a lot less time following up with them because I have it in an email. I can read it and I’m done. I’m moving on.
We tried to focus the first 75% of this episode on what you can control. In most cases, if you do these things, become a better performer, give your manager fewer reasons to micromanage you, be more proactive, more prepared, and you’re a better communicator, most of your micromanagement is going to go away. Let’s say you do all these things. You can answer yes that you’ve done all these.
Before we get into it, because we’re going to talk about confronting it, let’s put an exclamation point on what we said. If you have an experienced manager who is micromanaging you and you do everything we talked about, they no longer have a reason to micromanage you. They will stop. If you have a new manager who is micromanaging you and you do all of these steps, they’re most likely going to come to you and seek help. If they’re a decent manager, they’re going to say, “Can you help so-and-so? Can you do this? Can I use you as an example?”
Confront Your Manager
What Ian and I talk about in almost everything we do is how to be reactive and proactive. Everything we talked about to this point is how to be proactive and how to deal with it. If they’re not a completely broken manager, in either instance, if you do these things, you’re going to solve 80%-plus of the micromanagement problem. If it doesn’t, then you can come into confrontation. Do you agree with me? If you do these things, it’s going to solve the lion’s share of the problem.
In most cases, if you do the things that we talked about and you’re proactive, you are one of the absolute top producers, empirically, objectively, and a good communicator, prepared, and never surprise your boss, they’re probably going to leave you alone if you can answer all of those. There are some people that are micromanagers. That’s part of their DNA. Let’s be honest. I think 1/3 of managers are crappy and shouldn’t have been promoted. There are a lot of top performers that were put into management roles that don’t belong in management roles. No matter how good a job you do, if you don’t confront it, they’re going to keep micromanaging you and drive you crazy. This fifth step is about that. I agree with you.
This is the bad manager who’s a micromanager.
Bad or new, but either way, they’re poorly managing you. They’re not adapting to you as a good performer. Ask them for a one-on-one meeting. Tell them, “I’d like to meet with you.” When you go in there, this step is important, ask them how you’re performing. Ask, “How do you think I’m performing? I would love to know.” Get them to say what you believe, which is you’re a top performer. You ask them, “I‘ve been here for a year and a half working for you. I would love to get your take on how I’m performing versus my peers.”
Get them to say, “I love your performance. You get great results. I don’t have to worry about you.” Get them to say it out loud. You’re like, “That means a lot to me. Thank you.” I love this part. You’re like, “That’s a little surprising to hear that you think I’m a great performer.” They’ll be like, “I wish I would have said something to you before.” You’re like, “On most days, I feel like you don’t trust me. I don’t feel like you think my ideas are terribly valuable. I get the sense from you most of the time that you’re always expecting me to screw up, miss a deadline, fail, and then stop. Frankly, sometimes it feels suffocating how little you respect how I’m doing here.”
Stop and look at them and see what they say to you. The odds are very high if they’ve already told you, “You’re one of my best performers,” that they are going to be contrite, feel terrible, and they’re going to say, “I’m so sorry. What would make you feel that way?” You’re like, “You follow up with me seven times a day. You ask me to copy you on every email. You make me come to every meeting with the people that aren’t performing and give you status updates three times a week. It feels like you don’t trust anything I do.”
Get them to realize that they’re screwing up. If you come into this and say, “You’re a micromanager,” you’re going to get into an argument. You’re going to get in a fight. It will not work. You have to tell them that the way they feel about you is very different than the way you feel that they felt about you. You are completely shocked that they think you are a good performer because the way they manage you is the complete opposite of how you would manage someone that was described that way.
The only thing I will tell you in this is I wish I had known this skillset in my low twenties because I had micromanagers. I didn’t have the vocabulary or the ability to communicate it with the strategic plan that Ian laid out. What happens is you end up in a fight. When you have a micromanager and you call them a micromanager, but they don’t believe they’re a micromanager, you’re in a fight. If you do it this way, you’re using strategy. You’re setting a trap. You’re forward pacing the conversation. It’s a way to keep pressure low.
I joke about this all the time. My wife listens to NVR, and I call it the attack of whispers. They talk in very hush tones. I disagree with most of what they say, and that’s why I call it the attack of whispers. The point is if you have a lower voice and you don’t get someone else’s blood pressure to rise, you can get away with saying different things because you change the tone. If you’re a micromanager, I’m on my heels. Having this type of conversation with a slow burn gives it a very different outlook. Even if the person is a micromanager and they don’t hear it immediately, they should hear it over time. They’re not threatened. You’re not threatening them. You’re simply having a conversation.If you are feeling micromanaged, it could be that you are doing a poor job of communicating with your manager what you're up to. Click To Tweet
You’re not stating a fact. You’re implying some things. You’re not saying, “You’re a micromanager. You’re a controlling prick. I don’t like working for you.” All of those things can be argued because their cognitive dissonance is going to kick in. They’re going to say, “I’m not. I’m not a micromanager. I’ve already told you.” No one will ever admit to that anyway, but they can’t argue how you feel.
This is Dale Carnegie 101. You can’t argue with someone and how they feel because how could you? They’re like, “No one knows how I feel but me.” If you say, “I’ve been feeling this way,” it’s impossible for the manager to argue. All they can say is, “I feel awful that I’ve made you feel that way. I’m sorry. That’s not my intent to make you feel that way.” If you’re feeling it and you’re a top performer, go as far as to say you’ve even thought about looking for another job because you felt like you might get fired by this boss. Go as far as to say that.
From a leverage perspective, if you want to get paid more, promoted more, or have more control of work, you always want your manager to be a little bit nervous that you might not stay. You don’t want them to feel that you are loyal beyond the fact that you wouldn’t work for someplace else. If you’re feeling it, slip that in because the truth is, if you’re reading this and you’re feeling micromanaged, you are thinking about going for another job. You are thinking about leaving.
You could slip it. The way to say it is, “I’m not going to lie to you. I even thought about getting my resume ready because I’ve felt like you didn’t want me here.” It’s not, “I hate you. I don’t want to work here.” It’s, “I felt like I needed to get proactive because maybe my time here was along the way you’re managing me.” If you handle this well, they’re going to feel bad. They’re going to want to talk about some things they can let up control on. You can then transition to this.
If you handle this well, there’s not an argument, and they feel bad about having done that, this is when you pivot to, “Can I try this myself and come to you if I get stuck? Can we get rid of having to copy you on A, B, and C in an email? Can we get rid of this weekly status meeting you do with me? Can I try to do this one on my own? If it doesn’t get the results you want, then we can talk about it.” These are if-then statements.
I’ll be like, “If you give me this meeting to run myself without you being there every time, I’ll come prepared. Here’s the outcome I’ll give you in that meeting. If you let me run this project, then I’ll make sure to send you a weekly update with all the details you’re looking for anyway, and I’ll do it at my pace. I promise you I will finish on time with the outcome we agreed to.”
You are asking permission for them to get the hell out of your business. You’re doing it in a very polite way. I can be honest with you. I’ve had a manager do this with me before where I was micromanaging her. I didn’t trust her at first, but then she started performing. One day, she sat me down and said, “Do you not trust me?” I was like, “I do. You’re great.” She’s like, “You got to get out of these 3 or 4 things.” I listened and I felt bad. I thought, “I’m out. Here are the results I want. I’m going to go focus on some other office because you are doing a kick-ass job. I’m sorry I stayed in the muck way too long.”
There’s not much to add here. This is the way to do it. Even people who are pretty good at it forget from time to time and need to be reminded. Ian gave you a very formal plan. Sometimes, it can be as simple as, “Boss, can I give this a shot?” It doesn’t need to even be as formal. It can be something that’s like, “I want to show initiative.” If you show initiative and you haven’t been told no, or you haven’t proved to me that you can’t show initiative, then it works.
Let me show you the side where this doesn’t work. We had somebody we let go and they were like, “I’ve been asking for more.” We were like, “We’ve given you stuff and you haven’t done it. You no longer deserve a job here. I don’t care if you’ve asked for more. You’ve been given 5 or 6 items that you haven’t done. That either requires micromanagement or to be fired.” The opposite side of it is I have a performer who sees something and says, “I would like to try this.” This person has given me no reason not to try it. I’m like, “Why not? Are you sure you can handle it? When do you want to get it done? How do you want me to follow up?” Those are all appropriate questions to ask as a manager to set it up.
You have someone with initiative. The last thing you want to do with someone’s initiative is to smash them over the hand and say, “No. Don’t” It’s like with a child. When they do something that’s positive and in the right direction, don’t say, “You put your shirt on backward.” Celebrate the fact they put the shirt on in the first place. Take the little wins and then build off of those. Take that energy and that inertia and grow with it.
Some managers, the ones that have strong micromanagement control issues, you’re going to have to push a little bit harder. They might want you to do things in a specific way. If they’re being very specific in how to do your job instead of what they’re looking for, say, “Can I ask what the ideal outcome for this task, project, or job function is? How are we going to measure it? How is that measured? How do you look at things? If I can get you that exact same outcome in the way you measured it and described that result, can I try a different approach that might work for me? I believe that way worked for you best, but I’m a little bit different. I want to try to go about this differently. Can I try something different as long as I get that same outcome?” See how that works. A lot of times, people will say, “Okay.” It jars them out of, “I do want that result, so I would be happy with that.”
The last thing I’ll leave you with is if you can get this micromanager to pull off on controls, it is up to you to stay in touch proactively and regularly because they still have those feelings. They’re nervous. They’re out of the loop and they’re worried about it. Go out of your way to be proactive and say, “Here’s what I’m working on. Thanks again for letting me try this on my own. I wanted to give you a quick update.” It’s on your terms. You don’t feel micromanaged. Give them a little summary in an email. Give them a quick call to say, “Here are some things I’m working on.” They’d lay off a little, but if you don’t keep communicating proactively, they’ll be right back in your business. It’s on you to make your boss feel comfortable with the work you’re doing because they are the ones paying you.
Everything is processed. If you do this right and you perform, you’re proactive, you communicate, and you’re consistent, you should find yourself with a raise and more opportunities for promotion. If you don’t, you work for the wrong person. We didn’t get this in this episode, but I’ve worked with micromanagers and I had to go to their boss. I’m like, “I’ve had this conversation with so-and-so.” In every instance, the boss liked me, so I had an opportunity to have someone else’s ear.
You don’t want to have to do that because you don’t want to be a tattletale. At the same time, that’s where I would have the conversation fall on deaf ears with somebody else of, “Should I be looking for something else to do?” If you’re at the right organization, that person’s going to put their foot in that micromanager’s ass, but if that person also falls on deaf ears, either they’re purposely tuning you out or you’re in the wrong company. You’re at a place where they don’t know how to cultivate talent and initiative. That’s on them, not on you.
If you’re a manager and you have read this episode, because there are probably some people that are managers that are feeling micromanaged and have employees reporting to them, think hard about, “Do I have tendencies of a micromanager?” If you do and we’ve described anything that sounds like something you might be doing to someone you appreciate, trust that they are thinking of finding another job. They don’t feel trusted and respected. They feel suffocated. They don’t feel like it is fair that you’re following up with them as much as you are with the people who aren’t performing as well as them. Think hard about it. Make yourself available to these kinds of conversations of where you can pull off on the reigns. Frank, it was good hanging out with you.
It is always a pleasure.