The challenge of achieving a desired outcome without micromanaging

How do you coach team members towards a desired goal without creating a sense of micromanagement?

As a physician leader, I am faced with many challenging problems in healthcare delivery. I have responsibility for many different aspects of care quality-timeliness, cost effectiveness, and safety, just to name a few. I have a large team of people who work with and for me. Among them are many talented individuals but, as in all systems, there is a range of abilities. In addition, not everyone feels a sense of urgency about solving problems, even when those problems directly impact patient outcomes. The factors contributing to this lack of sense of urgency include some that are structural-no one person may be responsible for a specific issue; others that are historic-I am a relatively new leader and for decades there was a lack of sense of individual responsibility; and still others that are personal-many were hired or promoted without regard to their problem solving abilities or sense of personal agency.

Since I was hired, in part, to solve problems, my tendency is to figure out the best solution and to manage-some might say micromanage-towards that.  I have had quite a lot of success in getting things done with this management style. It doesn’t require others to be creative or to feel the sense of urgency as I describe above. However, in some cases, it ends up with me doing the job for them, which makes me resentful of being overworked and others resentful of being told what to do. I have been working on delegating more and reducing my oversight of projects, which is quite difficult but is a work in progress.

Recently, my organization has decided that leaders should be coaches who barely even suggest solutions but should somehow manage towards outcomes nonetheless by coaching team members. I find this next step extremely difficult and am really not sure how to transition to being this kind of leader.

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8 thoughts on “The challenge of achieving a desired outcome without micromanaging

  1. I too struggle with this RS and at times have found my shift from ‘Leading a Team’ to ‘Leading Leaders’ to be a challenging one. Delegation takes significant time and sometimes we do not have that luxury. But, as Ghandi says, “A sign of a good leader is not how many followers you have, but how many leaders you create”….so I am convinced that we must continue to develop 🙂

    I have found some leadership development theory to be helpful in my thought process: i.e. discussions around a leadership pipeline state that ‘as a person progresses in levels of leadership a MINDSHIFT HAS TO TAKE PLACE. When you move from being an individual contributor, to a leader, to a leader of leaders, to a leader of an entire business, these transformations and considerations must shift in:
    – How do you value time?
    – How you spend resources?
    – What you prioritise?, etc.

    In an effort to be a better ‘Leader of Leaders’ I have in the recent past made a conscious effort regarding this and have focussed on one leader/team at a time. I am having moderate success and look forward to the next few months.

    I’m also eager to hear other peoples’ ideas.

  2. I agree with Siona. Each phase described before: starting being an individual contributor, to a leader, to a leader of leaders then to a leader of an entire business; will be a struggle in the beginning to you till you mature in your role. I meant with time you will acquire skills and the knowledge that will put you in the right prospective.
    So, time and patience are the keys.

    It seems you are having problem with only few; the ones that were promoted without taking into consideration other aspects of the job. So, I will target each one in person to person meetings and put an action plan with time tables. So, you teach them to be accountable.
    One thing I will not do, is to demote them without giving them a chance which you start in your office. Believe me, you may demote a person that you will notice in the future that he is a leader material.

  3. I agree that micromanaging (where you ended up because of the situation) may not go well. I also agree that leader has to set a path for others to excel. Individual meetings to communicate your vision and direction for the division (or department) and setting mutually beneficial goals might help. I end up doing this in my role of “mentoring” graduate students and Post-Docs not to mention other faculty in my division. One of the mentoring lessons I took taught me this also. I also agree time and patience in addition to talking to people would help. I also believe that a leader has to lead by example though that does not mean that a leader does things that the team has a responsibility of doing. More importantly you recognize the issue and difficulty in your division which is key. I think that is half the battle many times (recognizing from others perspective that a leader may be doing something right or wrong).
    Cheers

  4. You are not alone in having a difficult time delegating, especially when you are able to see the solutions quickly. Leaders are not just born, they are created through education. If your organization is looking to decentralize decision making, then they should invest in the education of the lower level leaders that they are trusting to make changes.

    Communication and relationship building is also key in decentralizing the decision making. You need to be able to trust those leaders below you and give them autonomy. The only way that they will be successful with that sudden autonomy is to have a clear mission and for them to understand your expectations. Trust is only achieved between members of a team when they get to know each other. I know your time is valuable, but intentionally make time to get to know your people. Grab a coffee together, have a regular check in meeting, or doing something social will help to build the necessary relationships to make this change. Build the trust, develop the relationships, clearly communicate the goals/mission, give them the power to make change happen, and most importantly celebrate the wins.

  5. Micromanagement is actually counter productive if you take the time to analyze how much time you have put into a process and what you have achieved by doing that. The only way forward is to try to see the big picture and not to get involved to detailed personally. I realize: easier said than done. But, a way to start a new leading role (or leaders role) is to pick just 1 or 2 problems and to create a small team of people you trust and like to work with. They should, of course, remotely be part of the proces you want to change. A sense of urgency needs to be created (creating responsibility to solve it for the members of this small group at the same time) among this team first and a few (common) goals must be set. Make sure someone takes notes, so no doubt is created on who should do what. Have regular meetings to discuss progress and make a “to do list” that can be analyzed at each meeting. Start small, make it bigger if the first small “wins” are achieved.

  6. I think it is highly important that you manage to change how things are now working in our organization, It requires – in my opinion – both you to change and your people/your organisation’s leadership to change.

    To train and coach you staff to be able to take responsilibily, I would start with systematic discussions about the values, vision, mission, strategy and annual goals of your organization. I would then continue discussing what those mean in the every day life at each level of your organization. If you hospital had for example a goal to improve productivity, what does that mean in each department, each ward etc, what should they aim for in order to help the hospital to yield its goal. Unless people know what they should be aiming at, it is difficult for them to work towards that. Then you should empower them to make changes, suggest ideas and make decisions to reach their goals, within boundaries that you have set, of course. You should meet with them regularly (one a week at least) and go thorough their KPIs, ideas, challenges, and coach them to take actively responsibility. Ask questions, don’t give them answers. This all takes a lot of time and effort and required that the mindset of you and your staff changes. When making your staff take responsibility, it often helps if you can create some kind of sense of urgency.

    Your own way of working and seeing your role has to also change. You have to be systematic is delegating things that are not really your job, but learn how to follow that things move then ahead. Follow and coach, but do not criticize or do the job yourself. Sometimes your staff will choose to do the things differently from what you would have done, but if the outcome is ok, let it be. Learning to delegate is not easy. There is a wonderful old HBR article on delegating by Oncken et al. “Managing time – Who’s got the monkey”. I highly recommend that.

  7. I fully see and understand the challenge. My suggestion would be creating and developing the platform to pull the team into problem solving environment. This could be a workshop or weekly meeting, where the challenges being discussed with problem solving mode and then assign task / motivate the team to take ownership of the tasks and actions to solve the problem. If you can develop a daily management approach and track the actions weekly and results visa vie outcomes it will create transparency and team work.

  8. This is a difficult step, but necessary. Delegating power eventually, often immediately, increases accountability. You should just take the step and see how it develops, it is usually to good direction.

    You will actually get feedback soon from the ones who do not want more responsibility, so it does not go hidden. They will tell about their clinical and other workload first. They are the resisters, but most of them get thir act together after their first shock of having leader responsibility. Such persons sometimes become even converts, want more leadership work.

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