Great leadership lessons I have learnt – on micromanagement

I’m a nice person. Really, I am. I’m supportive, encouraging, and helpful.


The other day I went for a job interview.  The manager, Tiny–neither the correct spelling, nor a reflection on the man’s stature or personality–asked me, “What will you do when you have two deadlines and won’t have time to finish both?”

I thought about it, I panicked a bit, because I haven’t been to many job interviews in my life.  I didn’t think the question through… “Elizabeth, you’ll have to give a quick answer now”, I thought.  “I don’t want to be misused, and I don’t want them to worry about confidentiality”  “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I would take work home.”

Tiny smiled and glanced at the other interviewer.  “And if extra work won’t solve the problem, what will you do then?”

“These people don’t know what I’m capable of”, I thought, “but they won’t believe me if I tell them”.  I recalled that two full time employees were appointed to fill the gap after I had previously left a temporary half day job.  I tried to find the right words – behind them on the wall – in the wrong (second) language.  Then my eyes dug for a solution on the floor.

“Calm down”, I told myself, ”remember the job interview project at Toastmasters”.

Toastmasters.  All the conversations I had with fellow Toastmasters flashed through my mind:

“I hope all goes well.  I had… almost no help.” Me.  In a rare mood. I never complain, but I am exhausted. Guests will arrive soon, and there is still so much to do.

“You shouldn’t have done this all by yourself.”

“Everyone was too busy.”  Me.

“And I didn’t want to bother them.”  Still me.

The other Toastmaster, “You micromanage.”

“No, I’m just trying to be efficient and considerate.”

“I know, I’m like that too.”

I put a program next to a plate, and straightened the knife.  Why don’t people care about the details? I sighed. Then I moved a plate exactly into the middle of the table.  I took a deep breath – tried
not to sigh, again, and confessed, “I need to know that things have been done well.”

We didn’t say anything after that.  We knew.

I organised a successful event, but I did not make use of a team.  There were no meetings, no agenda, no team.  No team leader.  I was nice. And efficient.  Extremely efficient. But not a team player.

I looked up at Tiny. “I’ll ask for help.”

He smiled, and nodded.

Will I ever become a good team leader?  I don’t know.  I feel guilty when I ask for help.  Yet, I feel good when people ask me for help.  It makes me feel worthy, valued.  Up to now I thought that maybe I’m just not a leader.  There should be workers, too, after all.

Toastmasters, however, has taught me that it is good to ask for help.  It makes other people feel worthy, valued.  burden is shared.

I went to a Toastmasters meeting this afternoon, and was the Table Topics evaluator.  I gave a very positive evaluation to each of the six speakers and the Table Topics Master. Afterwards the General Evaluator said, “We are here to learn, so maybe next time you can make small recommendations.” Hmm.  Forever a micromanager? LOL.

– Elizabeth Viljoen