Are you a micromanager?

Written by Alister Esam Tuesday 09 November 2021
Answer these four quick questions to find out if you’re a micromanaging helicopter manager – and how you can change your behaviour
An image of a yellow helicopter flying over Manhattan

I was once a self-confessed helicopter manager and stressed CEO working 80-hour weeks to ensure that my business ran according to plan. I was deeply passionate about growing my business, but in the process ended up heaping stress on both myself and my employees. It wasn’t until I implemented proper processes that I was able to trust my staff and cut down my hours.

Are you a helicopter manager? Answer the four questions below to find out.

1. You are looking through the company website when you spot a small error. Do you:
  1. Make the necessary amendments and move on.
  2. Spend hours studying the rest of the website to check for any further mistakes.
  3. Quickly glance over the rest of the website, and remind the team to be more careful when checking for errors.
2. Someone voices an opinion at a meeting that you don’t agree with. Do you:
  1. Listen carefully to their point of view and try to understand where they’re coming from.
  2. Shut down their opinion and move on to the next point.
  3. Thank them for their input but ignore most of what they say.
3. You are worried about progress on a certain project and want to make sure your ideas are implemented properly. Do you:
  1. Ignore your thoughts and trust your staff to do the best they can.
  2. Set a personal reminder on your computer for three months’ time to check everything has been implemented correctly.
  3. Leave it to your staff for the time being and make a mental note to check up on it in the future.
4. One of your employees comes to you with an idea that your other employees have backed, but it doesn’t fit with the vision you have for the business. Do you:
  1. Listen to them and understand that it could be a better idea than the one you have.
  2. Explain to them why things need to be done in the way you planned.
  3. Say that you will consider their idea but mostly ignore it.

What did you get?

NOT a helicopter manager

You trust your staff to do the best they can. You want the business to succeed but you don’t micromanage your staff. It’s likely that you have good processes in place to ensure that your business runs smoothly without you, and that your staff feel trusted to do their jobs.

Helicopter manager

You struggle to give up control. You have a vision of how you want the company to work and you will do anything to make sure it happens. Implementing better processes can allow the business to run on its own, which can help you to step back as a manager. Try to work on trusting your staff to do the best that they can, and understand that things might not play out exactly as you see them.

You COULD BE a helicopter manager

You are showing some signs of micromanaging and could do with working on trusting your staff a little better. It’s worth evaluating the processes in place within the business and seeing if there are any improvements you could make to help the business run smoothly without your input.


Fix your micromanaging

Did you get Bs and Cs? The good news is that micromanaging is not a terminal condition. Look no further for tips, support and advice on combating your helicopter management style:

More resources

CMI members can find more resources and support in ManagementDirect – including research-based strategies from the Harvard Business Review and expert advice from experienced CEO and board member Paul Fribourg. Simply log in to get started.

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Image: Shutterstock/lassedesignen

Alister Esam is an innovator, investor, CEO and author.

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