New leaders: from micro-managing to empowering

I work with hundreds of department heads and people leaders all over the world. A common theme I am picking up on at the moment is: our new leaders are either fresh from university or they have been pre-maturely promoted to being in charge of teams because we had to (the war on talent is felt everywhere). These new leaders are smart, driven humans but have very little to no experience in managing and leading other people. There is a lot of micro-managing going on and more employees are leaving in droves.

The fact that attracting and retaining staff is challenging right now (and probably will be for another couple of years) won’t change. But what we can change is develop these new leaders and help them to go from micro-managing to empowering.

What is micro-managing?

There can be a misconception about what micro-managing is. Lia Garvin describes it perfectly in this HBR article:

‘When we think of the controlling boss, we often think of someone yelling at their employees, telling them they can’t cut it, and creating an all-around hostile work environment. But this is often not the case. It can be a slippery slope from kindly “wanting to be looped in” to full on micromanagement. By micromanaging, I mean being overly prescriptive on tasks and follow ups — to the point of taking learning opportunities away from your team. Yes, your greatest weakness can be that you care too much.’

Garvin talks about a slippery slope from wanting to be looped in to full micro-managing. I think it’s a fine line as well. It’s a manager’s job to set clear expectations and hold their teams accountable for delivery and performance.

What I often see happening is that mistakes are made or timelines look at risk, new leaders immediately step in and put out fires. When this happens over and over again, team members rely too much on their leader or even become dependant on them. A perfect backdrop for micro-management.

Believe in the potential of your leaders

For me, shifting from micro-managing to empowering starts with our mindset. We have to believe that our team members have the potential to execute their tasks and solve problems. Learning about and applying a growth mindset for young leaders is the best starting point in my experience.

The organisation has their role to play here too. Ask yourself: is it ok in your company to ‘not know’, even as a subject matter expert? When new leaders can rely on a culture where it’s ok to not have to have all the answers and rely on your very clever team of experts, they will feel they can empower others.



Invest in their leadership development

When I work with a team of new leaders, I start with the DISC Flow Leader report. When we de-brief this report, it not only gives each person insight into their own behaviour style; they learn about their leadership style too, and how developed their emotional intelligence is.

They will better understand their strengths and limitations as a leader. They be more aware of how they lead people, and how they can better adapt to their team’s preferences and behaviour styles.

This is incredible powerful information for a new leader to have.

When leaders bring a growth mindset to the table, they can look at the development tips in the report and create a leadership action plan that focuses on continuous self-improvement and striving to be a better people leader.

When I work with emerging and new leaders, I also teach them critical leadership skills that help stop the “slippery slope” to micro-management.

1. How to set clear expectations
2. Apply a growth mindset and build trust
3. Hold their team members accountable
4. Avoid back-delegating
5. Use a leader as coach approach to empower people

Use a coaching approach to lead by example

There is a real focus on Leader as Coach skills in organisations right now and I teach these skills in various industries multiple times a week.

Being able to use a coaching approach whilst managing and leading people firstly requires leaders to believe in the potential of their people – crucial to preventing micromanagement.

Secondly, it shifts the conversation from advice giving and problem solving to asking open questions and encouraging team members to think for themselves more.


1. What is the challenge you have?
2. What would you like instead?
3. What’s one thing you can do?
4. What have you done in the past or seen others do to solve this?
5. What are you going to do now?

This is a very quick way to coach someone to come to their own solution or problem solving.

If you want a culture where people feel empowered and not micro-managed, invest in your leaders. Give them insights into their own leadership style with the DISC Flow Leader report. Teach them critical skills, and encourage a coaching approach.

These three things will empower them to become better people leaders.

If you’d like a sample of the Leader report:

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