This is an interesting and pertinent topic to me, as many of my clients–some aware, some not–suffer from the micro-managing malady.
It’s been my experience that micro-managers do so from perceived need. At least in their minds, they feel they have a need for acute attention to detail in one or more functions, or with one or more (or all) members of their staffs. From my experience, the underlying reasons driving this perceived need come from (a) real or perceived lack of competency of employee(s), (b) real or perceived lack of trust, and/or (c) an overdeveloped personal ego/sense of self-worth.
Realize that most people want to achieve the same results with fewer efforts, and micro-managing takes MORE effort, not less. The dangers to me are straightforward: in times of economic scrutiny, we need employees to be thinking MORE, not less.
So, how can we tell if we've crossed that line into micro-managing? What do we look for, and what can we do? Some indicators (and suggestions):
1. You frequently get questions about problems without recommended solutions. Employees–even really good ones–tire of doing the legwork for a micro-manager, so will simply ask questions instead of problem-solving. “What do you want me to do?” is a typical question, and they are essentially absolving themselves of all ownership and accountability. You decide, you own. They screw it up, you own it.
2. You regularly ask successful employees for status updates. Stop it. They didn't get there by being an idiot, and you frustrating them isn't helping. Set priorities and deadlines, and then allow employees room to do as you asked. Status updates, particularly those without major project milestones, are simply a display of distrust.
3. You're questioning others’ good decisions. Usually because you would have “done it differently,” or are uncomfortable you weren't involved in the decision. How about just saying “Good work, thanks...?” Learn to shut up; diarrhea of the mouth is a career limiter anyway...
Eradicating micro-managing is the responsibility of both parties–the staffer being micro-managed, and the manager “doing” the micro-managing.
But that's just me...