The antidote to overcontrol in the work place

It takes an honest person to admit that they overcontrol at work. Maybe you know someone who has received this feedback? Maybe someone has confided in you that their team are not working at their best? They may have even suggested that their overcontrolling style of micro-management could be contributing to this?

One thing is for sure, not many staff find it motivating or helpful. Luckily, an answer to overcontrolling can be to develop a coaching style of management. This involves learning how to ask questions rather than issuing an instruction, or even more abrasive, continually checking on an individual’s progress. A coaching style of management is a better alternative to explore.

How can a coaching style be helpful?

Let’s look at how to delegate a task. It’s tempting to just tell your team-mate what you want done, when by, and to describe the resources that will be available.

However, put yourself in their shoes. Rather than be told exactly how to do something, how much more motivated would you be to discover for yourself a more efficient, more creative or more satisfying way of completing the task?

Here’s the rub. What makes you happy, probably does the opposite for your team member. What helps you to feel in control, probably makes them feel demotivated and small. Your grand plan to develop your staff to do more may be falling apart with each passing second.

Questions you can use to coach when delegating tasks:

1) Discuss the purpose of what is needed – and encourage their point of view.

  • What do you think needs to be achieved here?
  • What are the most important aspects of this goal in your opinion?

2) Use open questions to help your team member take ownership (these are questions that encourage the person to contemplate and explore, rather than answer yes or no).

  • How could we be more creative?
  • What do you think the customer values the most from us, how can we achieve this?

3) Ask your team member to describe the processes to move forward. This keeps the responsibility and the momentum with them.

  • What are the timescales and milestones?
  • How shall we touch base in case of possible changes?

Just one question can tilt a conversation in a different way and give you far better results. And just as importantly, give the team member a more meaningful and rewarding experience. Try putting these techniques into action, and you’ll see the results very quickly.

For more tips on questioning and communicating with your team, check out our infographic:

Five Essential Communication Skills for Managers

The Power of Active Listening

The Power of Active Listening


The power of Active Listening

Active listening is an underrated communication skill that Leaders and professionals need to develop and improve. The benefits which come from this ability will raise your reputation and help you develop empathy.

This article will explore the importance of active listening and how you can develop your skill to improve communication and at work.

What is active listening?

Active listening is the ability to pay attention to the other person without becoming distracted such as thinking about what you will say or how to respond. Nor should you allow yourself to get bored and lose focus on what the other person is saying.

Dr Stephen Covey author of The seven habits of highly effective people said “First seek to understand then to be understood“ In other words when listening to others you should focus 100% on them and not on what you want to say.

How can you develop your active listening skills?

1. Stay focused on the other person without interrupting

A simple but important part of active listening is to stay focused on what the other person is saying without interrupting them. Too many people, myself included, are in so much of a rush to say something that we often interrupt others and don’t stay as focused as we should. 

2. Show you are paying attention

When listening to other people you should show that you are paying attention by using good eye contact and acknowledge from time-to-time by smiling and encouraging the speaker to continue with small comments such as “yes” or “I see”, or prompts such as “tell me more”? Or “can you explain further?” 

3. Summarize key points 

While it is important not to interrupt, if you stay too quiet when listening, the other person might feel that you are not paying attention or do not fully understand their points. Therefore, when the speaker has finished you should summarize some of the key points made by the other person to acknowledge your understanding.

4. Dig deeper

An important aspect of active listening it to understand more deeply what is behind peoples’ words. In certain cultures, such as in Germany or Holland, what people say is what they mean. However, especially in Asia and even in the UK, what people say and what they mean are often two different things. When a British executive tells you that your idea is “interesting”, it can sometimes mean that they don’t like it!

5. Ask better questions

If you want to be a better quality listener you need to ask better questions. This could be follow-ups to dig a bit deeper and either understand the other person’s feelings, or to check you understand the other person correctly. It’s key to get a good balance between both open and closed questions. A common mistake people make when communicating is to use too many closed questions and risk making assumptions. Therefore, be sure to ask open questions and encourage the other person to explain in order to understand them more deeply.