Talent Development

How not to micromanage your learning and talent development team

If management means doing the right things, and leadership means doing things right, micromanaging means believing you are doing both, while you’re actually doing neither.

For those not familiar with the term, micromanaging is all about trying to control or manage all the small parts of a task or activity in a way that is usually not wanted or that causes problems.

Let’s see the common mistakes that micromanagers make, and what they should do instead to make sure that their learning and talent development team performs at its best.

Time tracking is not performance management

Anyone can be late sometimes, take a break for longer than usual, mess around on social media for a while or leave a bit early; absolutely no one, though, wants to hear their manager commenting on this, especially when it is a one-off occurence. The more sarcastic or confrontational the remark, the higher the chance they will underperform from that point onward.

Remember that the hours someone works are not a metric for their performance; meeting targets is.

Set goals for your team, create a time plan and monitor their progress. Allow your staff to take breaks whenever they feel they need them. Scheduled breaks are counterproductive. Trust that they will not just waste everyone’s time and they will repay your trust with end results.

If bad time keeping follows a pattern with increasing frequency, then ask your learning and talent development team member to be open with you. Listen to what they have to say and come up with a solution that works for both sides.

Protect their time and space

Open-plan offices are about a century old and were initially built to reflect the old open-plan factory spaces. Although we know now that they are not very cost-effective in terms of productivity, they are still the most common office type in the corporate world.

In such a noisy environment, a micromanager can only be an additional distraction. They interrupt their team with questions, shushing them when they are a bit louder or frequently checking their  monitor. This demotivates them and subjects the team to the pity of everyone else on the same floor.

If you have defined your learning and talent development team’s target, your team will already know how and at what pace they should work to meet the deadlines. Just show them some trust and prevent other people from interrupting them. If they need your help, rest assured that they will ask for it. Allow them to joke around and feel free to join them, rather than reminding them of the deadlines of a given traning and talent development course.

Formal vs informal customer service

There are managers who have personal experience in customer service and some who inexplicably skipped that stage and the only skills they have are acquired through the training and development plan. We can all safely guess which group is more prone to micromanaging.

The main goal in customer service is one: to meet and exceed the client’s expectations; the ways to achieve this are many. Customer relationship management can vary from formal to informal. Opposite to common belief, informal does not mean unprofessional. It means a more resilient manner to build a rapport with your customers, who will most likely be millennials.

This means self-reliance, flexibility, and authenticity. If your staff belong to this generation and they are well-mannered problem solvers, they definitely don’t need old-fashioned scripts or outdated playbooks. Rest assured they will engage in a relationship based on honesty with the customers, skipping the stereotypical responses of the past. If you still think it is too risky an approach, measure their effectiveness through your customers’ feedback.

Train the learning and talent development team

As unbelievable as it may sound, here is a real story: a professional submitted an application for a learning and talent development course, explaining in detail how it will develop his skills in his role. Two weeks later, his manager replied with an email asking him to explain even further. The employee was frustrated and even thought of just withdrawing the application. He didn’t. He replied to the email copy/pasting the very same text from his application. Five minutes later, the manager gave him the green light. He had not even read through the initial application!

A stagnant team will inevitably fail to deliver and fall short of the organization’s needs and objectives. A micromanager can make such a situation even worse by putting the full blame on them, instead of tracing the problem to its root.

According to the CIPD Learning and Development 2015, over a third of organizations help their learning and talent development team to develop new skills by providing time and funding for training events. Be one of these organizations. Not training your training team is an oxymoron per se.

Allow your team to challenge you

“All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions” – George Bernard Shaw.

As sad as it may be to admit, a manager represents an established order, those current conceptions.

If you want to be a leader and not just a manager, be open to new ideas from your team. Show them the final destination and let them lay the path. Ask for their input and embrace their creativity, even if they challenge the standardized processes. Turn conflict to a negotiation and guide them through what they see as a problem.

Exploring new ways to deal with things can only be of benefit to the learning and talent development team. It will keep them motivated, boost their agility and help them develop mutual trust.


The learning and talent development team is a key component of an organization. Its operation has to be seamless so it can deliver at its maximum, but it must not be restricted into laid tracks. Creativity and initiatives should be encouraged and not suppressed.

Where a micromanager sees a problem, a leader sees room for improvement.

Assess the team, measure their skills and build up their motivation. Everyone wants to be good at what they do and belong to a successful team. Allow them to be confident to try new things and listen to their concerns. Have your team work with you and not for you.

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