How Not To Be A Micromanager


Have you ever heard the phrase, “People don’t do what you expect. They do what you inspect.” 

While I believe there to be truth in this statement, it could resonate with a micromanager's greatest fear: If I don't oversee and inspect every aspect of my team's work, they won't meet my expectation or perform with excellence.

Managing a team with inspection, without overstepping the boundaries into invasion, can be a delicate balance.

In our experience in executive search, we find that candidates do not typically leave a job because of the work they are doing. They typically leave a job because of their manager.

If you are a micromanaging church leader, you are communicating to your team that you don’t trust them, and nothing is less motivating to an employee than when they feel distrusted. When people don’t feel trusted, they begin to operate out of fear. Fear is debilitating and the opposite of how Paul calls us to live in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Here are four ways to not be a micromanager:

1. Set an Expectations Framework. We mention setting clear expectations often here at Vanderbloemen because we believe the majority of conflict is a result of unset or unclear expectations. Expectation conversations need to happen as soon as possible when a new staff member joins the team. The first step to setting clear expectations is to have a job description for each staff member. We always include the characteristic of agility in our job descriptions at Vanderbloemen because we know that being a part of a growing ministry requires staff members to sometimes work outside the bounds of their set job description. However, setting an initial framework of employees’ responsibilities is helpful for future evaluation and correction conversations. 

2. Understand Principle and Preference are Two Different Things. Your job as a church leader is to set the principles, values, and vision for your ministry and then equip your church staff with the tools to achieve them. Trust your team to choose the processes they prefer to achieve the overarching vision. Just because the process your staff members choose may look different from yours, doesn’t mean they are wrong or incapable. 

3. Accountability and micromanagement are not synonymous. What I do like about the quote, "People don’t do what you expect. They do what you inspect," is that it advocates for accountability. However, accountability and micromanagement are not the same thing. As you’re setting expectations on the front end, set a timeline for project meetings for a periodic check-in. This way, the employee knows the timeline on the front end and can set priorities accordingly.

4. Allow your employees to set their own benchmarks. Benchmarks are a great tool to use when setting a goal, as they allow for the bigger picture to be broken down into attainable action steps. Allowing team members to set their own benchmarks causes them to:

      • Thoroughly think through what it will take to reach their goal
      • Create a realistic and measurable plan to achieve their goal
      • Be motivated to reach those benchmarks, and ultimately, the goal as they've set their own standard for success

As a manager, measurable benchmarks allow for more accountability and a built in check-in system toevaluate progress towards reaching the goal. If the team member has set their own standard, they will have more insight as to why the benchmarks have or haven't been met. Different goals require different benchmarks - some weekly, some monthly, and some quarterly. This helps build a realistic framework for inspection, where the team member doesn't feel overlooked or micromanaged as they are working toward their goals. 

In my experience, to establish buy-in from your team, it's important to make them feel valued. While it is the manager's job to set the vision and clear expectations, allowing your team to bring their own style and thoughts towards accomplishing the vision communicates that you value and trust them not only for the work they do, but for who they are and the gifts they bring to the table.

Great managers set a clear framework and then allow their team to be creative within that vision, even when it looks different from how they would do things.

Trust your vision, trust your team, and trust yourself to be a great church leader.

What other advice do you have for church leaders who struggle with being a micromanager?