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Avoid Micromanaging by Setting Clear Targets for Your Direct Reports

Micromanagement isn’t a personality flaw; it’s a breakdown in the fundamentals of delegation.

As a manager, you should be able to give someone a task without having to look over their shoulder. The key is to provide clear goals. If you want your direct report to improve customer satisfaction, define by how much and specify which elements of satisfaction are most important. You should also explain the constraints of the project: “stay within this budget” or “follow these policies” or “get my approval on this type of decision.”

Without these guardrails you’re likely to leave the person flailing, and you, in turn, will want to hover. But be careful not to give too many constraints. Telling your general counsel, for example, to “get the contract in place” and then handing him the term sheet on a napkin is likely too vague. But saying “I’ll need to approve all edits in each step of the negotiation” is too much of a constraint and will waste everyone’s time. You need to find the right balance for you.

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