Surefire Ways to Drive Your #1 Into the Arms of Another

Recently, I’ve noticed an alarming trend in my executive search work. When I speak with candidates for the first time to discuss a new role, I make a habit of asking them what’s missing–or most frustrating–in their current role.

(When I extend the offer later, I’ll use this info to get the ‘Yes’ by reminding them of their woes)

Their most common answer?

It’s not money… not the commute… not their company’s stability. It’s their manager. More specifically, they’re fed up with being micromanaged. And it seems more prevalent lately … I’m still trying to figure out why.


Rockstars want to do more, learn more, grow more. Sadly, many managers hold them back… putting their own need for control and results ahead of their staff’s need to develop and achieve. This is bad for everybody.

You’re hurting your business results: because you’re crushing morale and you become the bottleneck. You’re hurting your team: because you’re robbing them of the chance to grow, improve, build skills, and increase their self-confidence.

You’re hurting YOUR OWN career: because, until you let them do work so amazing they can take your place, your company won’t promote you. And headhunters won’t call you. I’ll bet you’ve had a micromanaging boss (or board member… or investor…) at some point in your career.

Remember how it made you feel?

Untrusted. Unworthy. Emasculated.

As a recovering micromanager, I know this all-too-well. Countless employees over the years have given me that look. You know…

That “Why are you nitpicking my work? Don’t you even trust me?” eye-rolling look.

Unsure if you’re a micromanager? Here are some warning signs:

  • You feel frustrated they did the task differently than you would have.
  • You feel satisfaction from identifying errors, omissions, and making corrections.
  • You feel a need to know the whereabouts of your staff & how they’re spending their time.
  • You check and double-check for project updates frequently.
  • You ask your team to cc: you on emails.
  • You don’t delegate as much as you should.
  • You sub-divide projects into tiny tasks that make your staff feel inconsequential.
  • You rarely ask your team how they think “it” should be tackled.
  • You’re never quite satisfied with an end product.
  • You continually send email reminders to your staff.

(If you’re still unsure, just ask your staff at your next 1-on-1)

If these sound familiar, then what to do?

  • Practice self-restraint. I’ve trained myself to say nothing until they present or share their plan or ask the full question. I’m not there yet, but it’s doable.
  • If they got the results but didn’t do it quite the way you would have done it, that’s ok. Congratulate them anyway.
  • Pick your battles. If you think of 4 things they missed or forgot or need to change, just focus on 1.
  • Agree on What & When. Let them figure out the How.
  • When you do give critique, tie it to their future career aspirations. Explain why doing something in a particular way is important in their future development.

As a leader, you should be working ON the business, not IN the business.

If you’re doing the latter, then you’ve hired poorly. Rather than waste your time micromanaging, just fix the problem & upgrade your team.

Want to crush the spirit of an A-Player?

Then micromanage them.

Want to hire great people that don’t need to micromanaged in the first place?

Then get this free book.

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman launched his recruiting career at Heidrick & Struggles and Spencer Stuart, the preeminent global executive search firms. Today, he’s Chief Talent Officer at Chicago-based Strong Suit Executive Search. Along the way, Jeff created four companies, backed by $50 million in venture capital. He currently teaches the MBA course about recruiting at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and hosts the five-star Strong Suit Podcast. Jeff has been featured by Inc., Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets. He holds a master’s degree from Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from The Wharton School.

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