There is a fine line between managing and micromanaging. How do you strike the right balance to support your team effectively, especially during crunch time?

I recently heard this question from the owner of a boutique marketing agency. Meet Mary (the owner), and Sarah, one of her key team members. As they navigate a crucial upcoming deadline, Mary is grappling with the challenge of supporting her team without micromanaging. 

This was a super important project and Mary wanted it to go smoothly. Mary’s biggest client was gearing up for a massive launch, the success of which would significantly impact both the client and Mary’s relationship with the client. Mary and her team were tasked with developing a comprehensive strategy, managing the budget, and timeline, and creating all marketing materials. All of that to say – the pressure was on. 

Mary felt torn between the desire to keep everything on track and the fear of micromanaging her team, which could potentially damage morale and hinder productivity – she had recently read a survey finding that 79% of respondents had experienced micromanagement, and 85% said their morale was negatively impacted as a result. She realized the importance of striking the right balance but struggled with knowing when to step in and when to step back.

“On the one hand”, Mary thought, “Sarah has proven herself as a capable project manager and she is the right person to lead this project. She can work with the other team members to accomplish all the things I don’t need to do personally. I know she will ask for help if she needs it.

But on the other hand — the stakes are so high! The timeline is tight and we don’t have time for things to go wrong, so if I’m not keeping tabs on everything, it feels too risky.”

Mary and Sarah met to discuss the project.

 Mary voiced her concerns – “I know this project is critical, and I want to support you and the team without micromanaging. But, I’m worried! What if something goes wrong, and we miss the mark?”

Sarah replied – “I do understand the importance of this project, Mary, and am excited that you trust me to lead the team. I also get that you need to be in the know to feel comfortable. Let’s figure out how to make sure we stay on the same page the whole time.”

Here’s what they did.

They broke everything down in detail:

  • What needed to happen
  • When each piece needed to happen
  • What a communication plan would look like to make sure everyone was on track
  • What they would do if a roadblock came up, or if something didn’t go as planned (as can sometimes happen despite the best-laid plans).

Still a bit nervous, but fortified by Sarah’s words and having a clear plan in place, Mary decided to take the leap.

As the project gained momentum, Mary did her best to be helpful without being overbearing, i.e. staying in the loop without hovering (as we know, this is hard). She received regular updates from Sarah, made herself available to answer questions as needed, and was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly everything was going. 

As a bonus, Mary also loved the time she was able to spend on higher-level activities since all the nuts and bolts of the project were being handled by her team. 

She realized that effective delegation is more than just assigning tasks and tracking progress; it requires open communication and trust. 

Now, I won’t tell you that everything went flawlessly – there were a few hiccups, and delays, and one piece of the project had to be redone at the last minute- but at the end of the day, they nailed it and the client was super impressed. Despite all of her hesitation, Mary was glad that she’d trusted Sarah to lead the project and taken a step back even though it was difficult. By building trust and encouraging clear communication, Mary was able to navigate crunch time with confidence and achieve extraordinary results without resorting to micromanagement.

If you’re struggling to maximize the effectiveness of your team, or having trouble with micromanaging (you might be doing this without even realizing it) – book a call with me.