Micro Management vs. Micro Collaboration

She took this job because it sounded interesting. The company had a good website and her boss seemed cool.

But here she is a few weeks in and she’s dreading going into to work. She realizes that as each day passes she’s becoming less human and more robotic. She realizes she’s no longer a person completing tasks; she’s an automaton living out the impulses and desires of her micro manager overlord.

It’s easy to think that micro management produces results, because it’s based on control. The thinking goes if you can control your employees, then you can control the results.

But you didn’t hire a robot; you hired a person. You hired them, because you wanted someone who would take several tasks, understand them fully, and complete them creatively in less time and for less money than you might expect.

Instead, you got someone who is still learning, needs time to grow, and is just as flawed as you. So you decide that they’re hopeless, and the only way to get anything done is to tell them exactly what to do.

But this style of management sucks. Instead of producing results, it prevents the people who work for you from being able to develop the instincts, skills, and abilities they would need to become employee you always hoped they would be.

Micromanaging is stupid, doesn’t work, and makes you look like a jackass. You need to stop micromanaging and instead micro collaborate.

Micro collaboration is similar to micro management in that it involves close contact between the you and your beloved human/worker, but it differs from micro management in a few simple but important ways.

In micromanagement you meet on a regular basis to tell your human/worker exactly what to do in dickishly explicit detail.

In micro-collaboration you meet on a regular basis to discuss priorities, invite questions, and communicate about the scope and the nature of work that is to be completed.

In micromanagement you are always worried that your human/worker is screwing things up so you spend a lot of time “checking up on them”

In micro-collaboration you work from a place of trust in your human/worker, working together to clarify expectations and creating an open exchange of communication that limits mistakes while supporting autonomy.

How micro-collaboration works

The first step to creating micro collaboration is to simply establish a series of regular meetings between you and the human/worker.

Ideally these meetings should happen on a daily or at the very least a weekly basis.

The purpose of these meetings is to establish and communicate about 4 things.
1: What are the specific goals or focuses that are most important to complete?
2: What obstacles, clarifications, knowledge, or skills are needed to complete those major tasks?
3: What goals have been accomplished and what lessons were learned from those accomplishments?
4: What obstacles have been encountered and how to overcome those obstacles?

Next you have to conduct the meetings with a spirit of curiosity and collaboration.

Too often when founders/owners meet with human/workers they are setting the agenda, identifying the priorities, and are closed to feedback.

In a collaboration meeting the goals are decided on together, with the founder/owner having the final say.

Most importantly, the founder/owner needs to be curious about the priorities that the human/worker see’s first.

At the beginning of the meeting the founder/owner might ask, “What are the top 3 things you’d like to get accomplished today?” and listen to what the human/worker has to say.

Once the human/worker has shared their priorities, if the founder/owner has any confusion, he or she might ask ask with a sense of curiosity, “Why those are important?”

If there are things on the list that are less important, the founder/owner can then share their opinion as to what isn’t important and why, and finish with the thought. “And what do you think?”

In fact this is the most important question a founder/owner can use when collaborating with a human/worker. Because this invites a level of collaboration or engagement that both can trust in.

Once the daily/weekly priorities are clear, the founder/owner makes it clear to the human/worker that if they have any questions about the specific expectations or purpose of a task that they should feel free to ask for clarification..

But if the question is about a small decision that costs the company less than X amount of dollars, then human/worker should feel free to make that choice.

STEP 3: Separate work
Because you’ve clarified what the tasks and expectations are, you must simply trust your employee to do the work.

Efficient teams are teams that trust each other, and the only way to let someone you know you trust them is to trust them.

STEP 4: Dealing with mistakes
So what happens when they make mistakes? First you must let them know that mistakes will happen. You must not criticize them for these mistakes as it will only encourage them to deceive you in the future or avoid taking any risks, both of which will damage your company.

Instead, acknowledge what went wrong and ask them what they think happened. Try to determine if the mistake happened because of a lack of clarity, a lack of skills, a lack of confidence, or something else.

Then work with them to come up with a solution. Losing your patience, getting upset, or chastising them repeatedly won’t help you create an ideal employee.

You must accept that mistakes will happen. Trust is built in a relationship when the relationship survives despite the existence of mistakes.

STEP 5: Keep collaborating
The biggest temptation is to stop collaborating and start leading. It seems so much easier to tell someone what to do.

But if you spend all your time telling someone what to do, then you spend less time doing the work that you need to do to run your company. If you learn to collaborate with your team, then you will create a relationship of trust and communication between you and the people working for you.

Not only do you manage less, but the people you work for will do much more than multiply your effort. They will multiply your intelligence, your creativity, and your confidence.