Mind Tools Newsletter 165: Escape Micromanagement!

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Mind Tools Newsletter 165 To view this newsletter online, please click here.
Mind Tools Newsletter 165: Escape Micromanagement!
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Contents
The New-Look Club!
Micromanagement
Value-Based Mgmt
Human Motivation Theory
Inspiring Your Team
Fiedler's Model
Remember!
Winning Body Language
The Why of Work
A Final Note
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Mind Tools Newsletter 165 - October 26, 2010
Escape Micromanagement!


Do you ever experience the frustration of being micromanaged? That demoralizing feeling that someone is looking over your shoulder, and that nothing you do is "right"...

So what can you do if you're being micromanaged? This week's newsletter article, Escaping Micromanagement, will help. In it, we look at why micromanagement is a problem, and then explore five strategies that you can use if your boss is micromanaging you.

We also look at Value-Based Management. This is one of the key ideas underpinning 21st Century business, and it explains how businesses can escape the short-termism that so often comes with quarterly reporting.

New and Even Better!

We're also very pleased to announce that we've made the Career Excellence Club even better, with improved navigation and a fresh new design, plus special new features to help you get the very best out of your career.

You can find out more about the new look Club below. With a first month fee of just $1, the right to cancel at any time, and a multitude of in-depth tools and resources in the Club, this is a great time to join!

Enjoy this newsletter!

James Rachel

James Manktelow and Rachel Thompson
MindTools.com - Essential skills for an excellent career!

Featured Resources at Mind Tools
Escaping Micromanagement
Escaping Micromanagement
Becoming More Independent
Newsletter Readers
Does your boss have a dictatorial leadership style? Learn strategies for escaping micromanagement, so that you can have more freedom in your work. Newsletter Readers' Skill-Builder
Value-Based Management
Value-Based Management
Managing for the Long Term by Maximizing Value, Not Profit
All Readers
Companies can often focus on short-term profits and results, at the expense of creating longer-term value. Learn how to create long-term value for your organization or department. All Readers' Skill-Builder
Fiedler's Contingency Model
Fiedler's Contingency Model
Matching Leadership Style to a Situation
All Readers
Are you a task-focused or relationship-focused leader? This leadership model argues that different leadership styles will work best in different situations. All Readers' Skill-Builder
  ... And from the Career Excellence Club
McClelland's Human Motivation Theory
McClelland's Human Motivation Theory
Discovering What Drives Members of Your Team
Club Members
Do you know what truly motivates members of your team? Use this theory to understand each individual's motivational drivers, so that you can manage them more effectively. All Members' Skill-Builder
Inspiring Your Team
Inspiring Your Team Club Members
With her organization putting more and more demands on her and her team, Angela needed ideas on inspiring team members, and gaining their confidence. Find out how she developed these. All Members' Coaching Clinic
Remember!
Remember! Club Members
Do you find it a struggle to remember things like names and passwords? Take this short training session to learn powerful techniques to help you to improve your memory. All Members' Bite-Sized Training™
Winning Body Language
Winning Body Language, with Mark Bowden Club Members
Body language expert and communication coach Mark Bowden tells us how we can use non-verbal cues to communicate more effectively at work. Premium Members' Expert Interview
The Why of Work
The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win Club Members
This book looks at how organizations can boost productivity by providing "meaning" to employees and customers. Find out more about it here.
Premium Members' Book Insight
Introducing...
The New-Look Career Excellence Club

As you may or may not know, we've spent four years working to provide a fantastically rich set of career success resources within our Career Excellence Club. Over the last nine months, we've also been working hard to make the Club really simple and enjoyable to use.

We're now proud to launch this work as the new-look Career Excellence Club!

Career Excellence Club Home Page

Here's what members are saying about the new style Club:


"Excellent and user friendly design. Great!" - cfa2009

"Love the New Look!" - MichaelP

"A quick note of congratulations on the new website. It's definitely a great step forward and no doubt the result of a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Many thanks to everyone involved in creating these improvements." - xprtt

Article

As well as updating the design of the club, we've improved the navigation and usability so that you can find what you want more easily. Plus, we've added a new feature, My Favorites, so that you can save your favorite articles and pages to your own personal bookmark area in the club.

Naturally, the Club is still packed full of resources to help you to excel in your career, including the in-depth Toolkit and Bite-Sized Training sessions, and our Book Insight and Expert Interview podcasts.

Try the Club for yourself (just $1 for the first month) or take the
Club Tour to find out more!
Editors' Choice Article
Escaping Micromanagement
Becoming More Independent

Imagine that you work in a classic autocratic organization, and your boss follows every little rule. She oversees each detail of every project and task - and she seems to believe that you and the rest of the team are incapable of performing without her help at every step.

This, in turn, has created an oppressive and discouraging work environment. Productivity and morale are low, and many people have left to go to organizations that are less controlling and more empowering.
Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors
Does your boss watch over
everything that you do?
© iStockphoto/36clicks

You like the work that you do, and you want to stay with the company. So how can you improve your situation? How can you get your boss - and perhaps your organization - to trust you more?

Working in a micromanaged environment isn't easy. In this article, we'll highlight the disadvantages of micromanagement, and we'll explore what you can do if your boss micromanages you.


Note:
Remember, some organizations require a micromanagement style - particularly if mistakes can cost a lot of money, or threaten someone's life. If you believe that this is true for your company, you can still use some of the strategies in this article, but be aware that your boss or organization may be unwilling to "let go."

Disadvantages of Micromanagement

There are several disadvantages to a micromanagement style of leadership:
  1. It can hurt creativity - When your boss constantly checks up on you and tells you what to do, you have no power to think for yourself. This limits the solutions that you might find on your own.

  2. It can cause you stress - Often, micromanagers make you feel as if nothing you do is good enough. This type of working relationship can make even small tasks seem overwhelming.

  3. It can waste time - When your boss constantly holds meetings and gives instructions, she limits the time you could be working on productive tasks.

  4. It can hold you back professionally - Because you're dependent on your manager for every task, you don't take responsibility for yourself and for your work. This limits your growth and development, which may impact your career.
So, what can you do about it?

Critique Yourself

First, it's important to find out why your boss is micromanaging you. If he behaves this way only with you, then perhaps you're the cause.

Look honestly at your own work and habits. Have you ever given your boss a reason to mistrust you? Does disorganization or poor time management cause you to miss important deadlines? Do you find it hard to concentrate, or communicate poorly? Or do you fail to follow up on important leads or emails that your boss sends you?

These are tough questions. It's hard to look at yourself and your work objectively. Ask your colleagues for help. They may give you a clearer picture of your work habits than you'll see on

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Mind Tools Newsletter 164: Boost Your Productivity!

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To view this newsletter online, please click here.
Mind Tools Newsletter 164: Boost Your Productivity with Mind Tools!
You've received this newsletter because you subscribed to it using our double opt-in sign-up process. To unsubscribe, just click the link at the bottom of this email. Alternatively, if you're not already a subscriber, you can sign up here.
Contents
How Productive Are You?
Managing Complaints
Getting Things Done
The 5S System
How to Relax
Group Decision Making
Managing in the U.S.
I'm Afraid I'll Fail
A Final Note
At Mind Tools...
About Mind Tools
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Mind Tools Newsletter 164 - October 12, 2010
Boost Your Productivity with Mind Tools!


What do you do when you need to get more done? Work longer hours? Do more than one task at the same time? Push back deadlines?

These days, many of us need to get more done, but with fewer resources, and in less time. And, if we're not highly productive, the quality of our work - not to mention the quality of our leisure time - can suffer.

Productivity and time management are key subjects within the Career Excellence Club, and today's newsletter features our quiz, How Productive Are You?

Spend a few minutes taking the test. Then use the results to find out how you can boost your productivity and get more done!

Improve the Way You Do Things

Our second article in this newsletter explores how you can use complaints and feedback to improve your processes, services, and products. (Most of us get feedback as part of our job, and you can apply the strategies in this article to many situations!)

Enjoy the newsletter!

James Rachel

James Manktelow and Rachel Thompson
MindTools.com - Essential skills for an excellent career!

Featured Resources at Mind Tools
How Productive Are You?
How Productive Are You? All Readers
Do you want to get more done? Take our quiz, and find out how to boost your productivity. All Readers' Skill-Builder
Managing Complaints and Feedback
Managing Complaints and Feedback
Improving the Way That You Do Things
All Readers
Many of us deal with people's feedback as part of our role. Learn how to use a closed-loop feedback process to improve the way that you work.
All Readers' Skill-Builder
  ... And from the Career Excellence Club
Getting Things Done
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen Club Members
This classic book can help you to prioritize tasks and projects more effectively, and make you more productive. Find out more about it here.
Premium Members' Book Insight
The 5S System
The 5S System
Reducing Waste and Increasing Productivity
Club Members
Is your working environment disorganized and inefficient? The 5S System is a thorough and systematic process for creating and maintaining an orderly workplace. All Members' Skill-Builder
How to Relax After a Hard Day
How to Relax After a Hard Day
Leaving Work at Work
All Readers
With this guide to mastering the art of relaxation, find out how to leave your work at work. All Readers' Featured Favorite
Group Decision Making
Group Decision Making Club Members
In this training session, learn strategies for group decision making, and find out how to avoid the common pitfalls that lead groups to make bad decisions. All Members' Bite-Sized Training™
Nice Teams Finish Last
Nice Teams Finish Last: The Secret to Unleashing Your Team's Potential, by Brian Cole Miller Club Members
This book looks at how your team can achieve better results by being more honest. Find out more about it here. Premium Members' Book Insight
Managing in the U.S.
Managing in the U.S.
Working in a Fast-Paced Culture
All Readers
Living and working in the United States can be a confusing experience for non-Americans. Learn how to work and manage successfully in the U.S.
All Readers' Skill-Builder
I'm Afraid That I'll Fail as a Leader
I'm Afraid That I'll Fail as a Leader Club Members
Scott was having second thoughts about becoming CEO of his organization. Find out how coaching helped him to face his fears, and succeed in the role. All Members' Coaching Clinic
Editors' Choice Article
How Productive Are You?

When we want to get more done, many of us work longer hours, move deadlines around, and multitask.

Although these strategies can provide some short-term relief, they aren't sustainable in the long term. Pretty soon, this approach becomes a way of life, leading to high levels of stress and, eventually, poor productivity.

Productivity is a measure of how much you accomplish - not how busy you are. So it's far better to learn how to work intelligently, and to use leverage to achieve more with your time and resources. This will increase your productivity - and help you find extra time to do other things.
How Productive Are You?
Find out how you can get more done.
© iStockphoto/pryzmat

The quiz below helps you to understand how productive you are. The discussion and resources that follow then help you identify strategies that you can use to increase your productivity, so that you can do more, with less stress.

How Productive Are You?

Take this test online by visiting http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/productivity-quiz.htm or, on paper, by circling the number in the column that most applies. If you take the test online, your results will be calculated for you automatically.

© Mind Tools Ltd, 1995-2010.

Statement Not
at all
Rarely Some
times
Often Very
Often
1. I use the leverage of other people's time to work efficiently. 1 2 3 4 5
2. I organize my day to take advantage of natural highs and lows in my energy and motivation. 1 2 3 4 5
3. I actively look for ways to improve the flow of my work, and the way that I approach tasks. 1 2 3 4 5
4. I can maintain focus on one task for a significant period of time. 1 2 3 4 5
5. I spend lots of time looking for information or documents, or locating missing items. 5 4 3 2 1
6. I actively look for ways to avoid wasting time and effort - both for myself and for my team. 1 2 3 4 5
7. I multitask regularly. 5 4 3 2 1
8. I use the talents, time, and expertise of other people on my team to help get the work done. 1 2 3 4 5
9. I use techniques like skimming and note taking to identify the key points from the documents that I receive. 1 2 3 4 5
10. I use a formal tracking system to understand how I spend my time. 1 2 3 4 5
11. I have a clear plan for dealing with disruptions and interruptions. 1 2 3 4 5
12. The volume of correspondence and documentation that I receive on a daily basis overwhelms me. 5 4 3 2 1
13. I delay difficult or unpleasant tasks until the last minute - or until the issue disappears on its own. 5 4 3 2 1
14. To ensure that things are done right, I keep close track of the activities and decisions of others on my team. 5 4 3 2 1
15. I find that my mind wanders, and it's hard to concentrate for long. 5 4 3 2 1
16. I do all of the tasks that are assigned to me, and hope that I can keep up with the volume of work. 5 4 3 2 1

  Score Interpretation

Now add up the scores you've circled.
 
My score overall is: out of 80

Score Comment
16-36 You have some work to do to become more productive. It's inefficient simply to fill your day with tasks or to try to do too much without considering your limits and priorities. Use the information and resources below as your motivation to work smarter, not harder. The good news: you'll soon be accomplishing very much more, in less time.
37-58 You're on the right track with your productivity efforts, and you probably get your most important work done. However, you could be more productive. Use the productivity techniques and resources outlined below to become more productive and efficient in your daily life.
59-80 Fantastic! You have a clear understanding of your priorities, and you use your time to maximize your output. You also think about how to use leverage to get the most from your time, and to use it to the organization's advantage. This makes you a real asset. Where appropriate, use the resources below to build on and improve your productivity skills.

This quiz highlights five key elements of working productively - organization, attitude, delegation, information integration, and effective use of systems. We'll look at these key areas below. By increasing your performance and effectiveness in these areas, you'll accomplish more in your day. You'll also begin to understand where to focus your time and energy to improve your productivity, and get better results.

Organization (Questions 2, 5, 7, 10)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

  Score
Statement 2  
Statement 5  
Statement 7  
Statement 10  
Total Out of 20

The first step in any productivity improvement plan is to get organized. Think about how to arrange your physical space so that it helps, rather than hurts, your performance. Messy desks and drawers affect your productivity because you spend valuable time searching through piles of documents, instead of doing high-value activities. Learning how to be organized is an art, and you need to work on it every day. From organizing email (members only) to organizing your files, there are many great systems that can help you order your working environment.

Organization also involves self-awareness, and becoming aware of how you spend your time is essential for improving productivity. An Activity Log shows you exactly where you use your time well and where you waste time handling low-priority work, interruptions and distractions. Activity logs also uncover whether you rely on multitasking: doing more than one thing at a time actually decreases productivity.

Self-awareness also helps you to understand when you do your best work. Some people do their best work early in the morning, and others aren't fully productive until the afternoon or evening. Understanding your work pattern preferences will help you schedule important priority tasks for the times of day when you perform the best. Our article Is This a "Morning Task"? explores this in more detail.

Attitude (Questions 4, 11, 13, 15)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

  Score
Statement 4  
Statement 11  
Statement 13  
Statement 15  
Total Out of 20

The next part of improving productivity is related to your attitude and approach to your work. Self-motivation (members only) is very important if you want to maximize your productivity. Learn what motivates you to do your best work - and then create the best environment possible so that you can do so. Also, when you create an environment that supports productivity, you can get "in flow." This is a state that allows you to focus intensely on your work to achieve incredible results.

To get into this high-productivity zone, you must also minimize or eliminate disruptions. Have a plan for managing interruptions (members only), managing your stress, and improving your concentration (members only). As you take positive steps to control your time and schedule, you'll likely reduce your stress, which will allow you to experience more positive energy. This is essential for getting "in flow," so that your whole productivity plan supports and improves itself once you get started.

Your mindset is fundamentally important for increasing productivity and improving overall time management. Think positively, and take small actions to improve your performance. This will give you the motivation and inspiration that you need to continue moving forward with your plan. Start now by adopting a positive perspective, and by believing that you can, indeed, be productive and accomplish your goals.

Delegation (Questions 1, 8, 14)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

  Score
Statement 1  
Statement 8  
Statement 14  
Total Out of 15

Being productive is not a lone sport. To be truly productive in a work setting, you must rely on your team to help you. That's why work teams are the preferred way to reach goals - together, you can achieve much more than with the effort of individuals working on their own.

To use the power of teamwork, you must know how to delegate effectively. Delegating isn't simply having others do your work - successful delegation ensures that the right person performs the task, regardless of who is ultimately responsible for getting it done. When people are able to work on their high-priority tasks, then everybody - and your organization - wins. If you spend too much time doing work that other people could do, and you have no time to make progress on your own key objectives, then you need to reevaluate who should be doing what on a regular basis.

Delegating effectively means providing sufficient support and resources so that another person can complete the job well. It doesn't mean micromanaging the process and checking every 10 minutes that things are being done right (in other words, "your way"). To delegate successfully, learn how to let go, and trust people to do what must be done. When you do this on a regular basis and build a team of people who all help one another as needed, your productivity levels will increase radically.

Information Integration (Questions 9, 12)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

  Score
Statement 9  
Statement 12  
Total Out of 10

Your productivity will also increase when you master how to identify and use information quickly. Emails, memos, trade magazines, published studies, status reports, operating statistics, financial results - these are just some of the information categories that you may receive on a regular basis. If you try to read each of these in detail, it might take a day or more each week!

So, look at strategies for overcoming information overload. You must approach information with a critical mind. What do you need to know? What type of information will a particular document provide? How will you use this information to improve the way that you work? Your answers to questions like these will help you determine the level of detail you need from each document. You may simply be able to ignore some items, or quickly skim topics and headings of others. Use these and other active reading strategies to help you reduce the time that you spend dealing with information and documentation.

If you must read a lot of information in detail, learn how to speed read. Our article on the subject reviews several ways to read material quickly, and you can practice speed reading on your own. If you process and integrate information quickly and effectively, it will help you work more productively.

Productive Systems (Questions 1, 3, 6, 16)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

  Score
Statement 1  
Statement 3  
Statement 6  
Statement 16  
Total Out of 20

Finally, to increase your productivity, improve the way that you and your team work.

Improving organizational systems not only helps you accomplish more - it can also help your organization leverage its assets effectively, to achieve its objectives and be more successful. Consider continuous improvement through practices like Kaizen (members only) and other techniques like Kanban (members only) and Job Analysis. These will encourage you to look at everyday tasks, processes and practices, and review how you can do things better. Also, learn from lean manufacturing approaches, and ask "How can we do what we do with less waste?"

Whether it's eliminating bottlenecks in a process or running meetings more effectively, anything that contributes to a more efficient work environment will ultimately make you more productive.


Key Points:

No matter how well you're performing right now, you can almost always improve productivity. When you're more productive, you contribute strongly to the overall success and profitability of your organization. And it feels good to be in control of your time, and to know that you can produce the results that are expected of you.

To be more productive, get organized, have the right attitude, manage information you receive effectively, and actively seek ways to improve your working systems. Taking this approach will help you increase your personal productivity and effectiveness.

A Final Note from James

As we've highlighted in the quiz, chances are that you can always find ways to boost your productivity. And by getting more done, with less, you'll have more success in the workplace, and less stress during your downtime. If you haven't done so already, test yourself with the quiz. And make sure you apply the results!

In the next newsletter, we're looking at how you can escape micromanagement, and we'll explore how a fear of success can stop you achieving your goals.

Until then, best wishes, and have an exceptionally productive two weeks!

James
James Manktelow

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Essential Skills for an Excellent Career!

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