How managers can avoid contracting Management OCD

In management training sessions with clients, a frequent topic of discussion is why managers must learn how to distance themselves from being problem solvers and instead act as problem finders and givers. Those in management who succumb to this trap of wanting to be the problem solver ultimately fail their responsibilities as a manager because of misplaced priorities driven by their emotional immaturity.

When managers operate as problem finders and givers, and train and strengthen their people to act as the problem solvers, they greatly improve their management effectiveness for two specific reasons: First, they create the time to focus on higher ‘value-adding’ activities that better help them achieve their objectives, and second, they explicitly foster their people’s growth and development by allowing them to learn how to handle their own issues.

But there’s a cautionary note to add, and it’s that managers must find and give problems with a degree of discretion and self-restraint. Any strength taken to an extreme will become a liability and those who take this to an extreme, by interfering in every last detail of their people’s work, produce another set of problems. Popularly, these voracious problem finders are known as micromanagers. But because of the obsessive compulsive traits they display, we like to say that they’re suffering from Management OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

The pitfalls of Management OCD can be quite severe. First, by constantly checking on employees, managers can easily rob them of the accountability their people must have. It produces employees who emotionally check out and don’t/won’t develop in their roles and it creates unhealthy turnover. Second, Management OCD causes managers to focus so narrowly on every small detail that they lose sight of their core purpose. Managers need to be leading their team towards clear objectives; if not, they’re “managing” a rudderless ship!

Unfortunately there’s no black and white line between the management effectiveness that comes with properly finding and giving problems and the Management OCD that comes with overdoing it. But when managers have the right priorities from which they can make good judgments, they can learn to make the right discretionary decisions that allow them to avoid contracting Management OCD and lead highly successful teams and businesses.

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