Motivate without Micromanaging

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Eliminate Mindless Compliance and Conformity

Most managers want to motivate people to peak performance, but their approach often backfires. In their fervent desire to teach people what they know to be true (after all, it worked to get them promoted to management, right?), some managers enthusiastically over-manage.

On the other hand, leaders get out of the way and let their employees utilize their skills to achieve peak performance. In my work with executive teams, micromanaging is the simple and clear differentiator between a leader and a manager, and a key differentiator between motivation and mindless compliance.

Over-management can manifest as micromanagement. When you tell employees what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and why your way is better, you undermine their ability to think for themselves. Instead of enjoying some control over the way they work, they begin to feel powerless and controlled. They many even start to doubt their competency. Their relationship with you deteriorates, as it is now based on compliance and conformity.

Managers who chronically micromanage destroy any chance for their people to find meaning and fulfillment at work. Their employees’ basic psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness and competency remain unfulfilled, prompting them to withdraw and disengage.

My work with executive teams often involves compliance with specific standards. Encouraging my clients to avoid micromanaging while allowing creative license in how they and their employees meet compliance, consistently results in sustainable systems and best practices that contribute to the business and the workplace. When done well, this is the power of integrating consulting and coaching. I want my clients to find meaning in the systems and processes they put in place and I want their employees at all levels of the organization to “buy-in” with appreciation for the intent of the systems and processes while contributing their creativity, positive energy, vitality, and sense of well-being.

The Domino Effect on Positive Energy, Vitality, and Sense of Well-being in the Workplace

Autonomy, relatedness, and competency are interdependent. When you fail to offer opportunities for learning and growth (competency), you thwart opportunities for autonomy and relatedness. Mess with one and the others fall like dominoes.

Working with executive teams building their capacity and capability to implement systems and best practices includes helping them avoid the mistake of believing their employees lack motivation. People want to learn, grow, enjoy work, be productive, and make a contribution. They want to enjoy relationships at work. It’s human nature.

When our psychological needs are satisfied, we experience positive energy, vitality and a sense of well-being. We strive for more. You’ve likely experienced this with your interests and hobbies. No one needs to tell you to engage in something you enjoy; you do it because you derive pleasure from it. In a previous post, I presented the research about why monkeys enjoyed solving puzzles. Interestingly, the monkeys solved the puzzles without any micromanaging.

Everyone has motivation. What matters is the quality of motivation. In my next post, I will describe the different levels of engagement and how you can discover more about what motivates individuals through motivational conversations.

What do you think about this?

  1. What has been your greatest challenge with motivating people?
  2. How do you ensure that your systems and processes allow for “creative license”?
  3. How is micromanagement affecting your motivation?

Our blog series on motivation continues and culminates in the next blog post:

  • Boost Employee Commitment with Motivational Outlook Conversations

Tell me about the challenges and successes you have with building capacity and capability for a great workplace and great profits. Your comments are welcome.

Contact me at, at 905-858-7566, on LinkedIn, or on Maestro’s Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter.

Books and Audiobooks:

Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging, Susan Fowler. Also available in Kindle Edition, on iTunes (audiobook), and in iBooks

Link to Motivation Series Blogs:
What is Flow and How is Flow Created? - We are Most Productive and Satisfied in the State of Flow
Boost Employee Commitment with Motivational Outlook Conversations
Motivate without Micromanaging - Eliminate Mindless Compliance and Conformity
Puzzles Motivate Monkeys. What Motivates People? – The Power of Self-Determination 
What We can Learn about Motivation from Monkeys – The Psychological Need for Competence
The Motivational Trifecta - Goldilocks Management: Just the Right Amount
Motivate without Over-Managing - This isn’t the 20th Century Workplace

Related Blogs:

Providing Conditions for Peak Performance, Patricia Muir