The #1 Clue That You Are Micromanaging

Have you ever had the feeling where your brain was exhausted? Where if you had to make another decision, you are pretty sure it would not be a well thought through one?

In your organization, do you feel like your team is constantly asking for your opinion or assuming that you have to sign off on everything?

I had that feeling this weekend. Complete decision fatigue. Too many people asking too many questions. As a result I was exhausted and barely had enough energy to put on the nice pastor smile and say hi to everyone. In fact I’m sure there were a number of people that didn’t even get a smile…just a glassed over glance. Yeah, it was bad.

What happened? And how can I make sure that does not happen again?

Some might say that I should follow Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg and limit the amount of decisions I make in a day by limiting my wardrobe.

And while I definitely was experiencing decision fatigue, it wasn’t the problem, it was only the symptom of something deeper.

Decision fatigue wasn’t the problem, it was only the symptom of something deeper.
— StevenJBarker

In a volunteer run organization like the local church your decision fatigue is the #1 clue that a team is being micromanaging.

It’s the check engine light warning you to address this now or it’s going to be very painful to solve later.

There are then a handful of steps you can employ to get the organization back in working order.

1. Clarify what types of decisions can be made without you.

You don’t need to be a part of every decision but the team needs to know who has the final word in your absence. Publicly point to that person as the decision maker for that department and/or team’s issues. Take “authority” from your pocket and put it in their's.

2. Highlight why, instead of what.

When you enter the decision fatigue stage you begin to rush through each decision desperately trying to make it to the end of the race. Instead, slow down. Teach them what your looking for.

When someone approaches you with a decision, lay out the criteria you are using to identify an appropriate solution. Let’s say for example, they are wanting you to decide where to place a table. Instead of dictating it’s exact location say “We need it to be unmissable, and accessible to at least 10 people at any given moment.” That kind of clarity helps your team make a good decision without your input being a necessity.

3. Play the long game instead of the short game.

Realize that in a volunteer organization that turn over hurts. It hurts a lot, because new volunteer leaders are grown, not hired. And that growth takes time. Be okay with a less than perfect decision this week so that you can develop that person into a long term leader in your church. This Sunday is important, but so is this year.

Let that leader have a growing impact on their community over the long haul, not just a “perfected” impact this weekend. Invest in long term leadership development. Play the long game.

4. Start wearing the same shirt.

I can’t completely throw the baby out with the bath water though. While decision fatigue may have only been a symptom of a problem, it may still be a valid issue to address. Work on making less and less "game day" decision so you can focus more of your effort on the strategy and direction. That is where you are most effective.

In the long term micromanaging isn’t going to get you where you want to go. It’s just going to make you feel more in control in the short term and the short term is for wimps. 

Warning: This is a 90/10 Book

Warning: This is a 90/10 Book

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Communication Issues That Get In The Way

If you’re like most people, at some time in your life you had a bad boss. And while it’s easy to criticize someone else’s choices it can be humbling to turn that scrutiny on yourself. In a recent HBR article, "The Top Complaints from Employees About Their Leaders”, Lou Solomon wrote about the top communication issues that keep business leaders from being effective. 

If you’ve lead a staff of paid individuals this is an important list to examine. But what if you lead volunteers. Does it still apply? Of course it does. When it comes to leading people, pay has less to do with it. Sure, there is the job we have to put food on the table, but we volunteer for different reasons. None of which compensate for poor communication. 

So how do you overcome these same communication issues when you are dealing with volunteers? 

Say Thank You

Recognize accomplishments in private and public. Send personal cards, hold awards ceremonies, publish a newsletter with your quarterly giving receipts. 

Set Clear Expectations

This means clearly articulating what your planned outcome is. Worry less about job descriptions and more about what you are trying to accomplish and how they can help (see "2 Reasons to Stop Building Your Volunteer Org Chart, Plus 1 Alternative").

Give Constructive Criticism 

It’s funny how uncomfortable leaders get when it comes to giving volunteers feedback. "But they are volunteers! How can I say anything negative to them?" Funny thing is, if at that very moment I pulled any given volunteer aside and said “Your team leader wants to give you some feedback to help you be more effective, but they think you might find it offensive because your just volunteering.” How do you think they would respond? Constructive supportive criticism can go a long way in increasing your leadership effectiveness.

Honor Their Entire Life, Not Just Their Volunteer Life

What percentage of each volunteer's work week is dedicated to your team? Probably a pretty small number. That leaves a lot of room for a lot of other things to be going on. Work, family, friends, hobbies. Their lives have many facets. Get to know a few of them and ask on a periodic basis. 

I want them to enjoy their volunteer work more than their job.

I’ve always wanted the time a volunteer spent working on one of my teams to be their most enjoyable “work” of their week. I want them to enjoy their volunteer work more than their job. That’s a tall order, and one that I can easily miss…but it’s worth aiming for. 

Question of the day: Which communication issue do you find most challenging? 

The Honest Guide to Managing Critical Feedback

Feedback hurts, especially when it’s right.

We all enjoy succeeding. We enjoy that feeling of knowing we are contributing in our unique way, helping the organization move forward towards it’s goals. But when someone, especially someone we respect, shines a light on the areas we’ve been ignoring…it sucks. It’s like being kicked in the chest.

Honst Guide.jpg

I’m perfect in almost every way, so when a friend pulls me aside to direct my attention to an area I’ve been ignoring it’s not a very fun experience. I’ve found though, that dealing with true but negative feedback in a systematic way can help address the blindspot and get things back on track.

1. Scrape Yourself Up Off the Floor

When you respect the individual giving the feedback the truth they speak can feel like an emotional punch in the gut. Understanding the fact that it will take you some time to emotionally recover is an important step in the process. This person has highlighted an area you’d rather ignore and it’s not going to be fun to uncover it, but it’s something that needs to be done. It’s natural to feel embarrassed.

Give yourself some time. Maybe for you that’s a couple hours, maybe it’s a couple days, but pay close attention to when you're done "scraping yourself off the floor." Then it's time to move on to the next step.

2. Unpack Their Feedback

Now that you’ve moved past the emotion and the embarrassment, it’s time to review their feedback. What helpful areas did they uncover? It’s easy to take this feedback as a commentary on your own abilities. Let me tell you though, no matter what they’ve said, it’s not.

Their feedback, no matter how specific it is, is purely an cry for you to review your priorities.

They are helping you assess what’s most important right now. You might have areas where you feel like you’re doing great and it's frustrating that that area is being ignored. You might even hear yourself saying "Why focus on this? Aren't I doing great in other areas?" Remember, they aren’t ignoring those areas, they are merely highlighting an area of oversight.

3. Formulate a Plan

Now that you’ve identified the problem(s) and reassessed their level of priority it’s time to formulate a plan. How are you going to address this problem? Who can you ask to help? Do you need to begin to staff your weaknesses?

4. Announce Your Plan

Once you’ve formulated your plan, share it with your critic. If they truly cared enough to share the problem with you, they’d love to help you implement your solution. Do them the courtesy of sharing your plan.

5. Follow Through

Don’t stop at number 4 or your just a person with great intentions. Follow through. If you haven’t read “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, pick up a copy [link] and start putting your plan into action.

Feedback isn’t necessarily a criticism of you, it’s a criticism of your priorities…which are always worth re-evaluating.

Feedback isn’t necessarily a criticism of you, it’s a criticism of your priorities.

Question of the day: Who in your life has given you the healthiest feedback?