Everyone has probably had an experience with a boss or co-worker that micromanages. They’re the ones that are constantly checking over your shoulder, re-doing tasks you’ve already done, or taking over projects that they had previously delegated. The negative vibes that go along with this management style are vast, so why does it keep appearing in the workforce?
Our guess is that either micromanagers haven’t explored alternative approaches to getting things done, or that they’re so personally invested in their business (i.e.small business owners who have everything on the line and who are incredibly passionate about the product and/or services they provide) that its hard to step back and appropriately direct that energy.
So how do you flip micromanagement approaches on their head and come out with a win/win? We’ve got a few ideas.
Micromanage Information Not People
It’s true, that as the business owner or boss you need to be on top of things. You’re incredibly invested in the success of your business, which means that you need to understand what’s going on at every level. But being in the thick of things on a daily basis, not only aggravates employees, it also goes against the reason you hired additional employees in the first place – so that you could focus on other aspects of the business.
Instead of constantly being in the day-to-day workings, try checking in with managers more frequently. Ask for timelines and projections rather than the nitty gritty details and then ask for project statuses on a consistent basis. If there’s a need for those details make sure you’re asking “for understanding” rather than questioning their abilities. Being consistent in asking for information shows your managers that you’re invested in the outcomes and that you trust them to be invested as well, whereas infrequent checks implies that you’re only going to look in when you think something is going wrong.
Tip: Make sure that you use proper communication channels when checking in with employees. Going over managers’ heads never builds morale. Instead, teach the people in charge, ask to be invited to team meetings if necessary, and instill confidence in their abilities while expressing your desire to “stay in the loop” – no one ever seems to be offended if you’re “there to learn” or are “looking for more information”. And remember, asking for information too often is still micromanaging in a passive way, so consistency is key.
Micromanage Processes Rather Than Employees
Employees who say they are micromanaged often report that they feel like the boss doesn’t trust them to do his or her job. It’s a valid feeling and probably one you can relate to – you started your own business because you had a great idea and wanted to do your thing, rather than work for someone else. Encourage that same mindset among the employees you hire by micromanaging processes rather than your employees in two steps.
Step 1 – Identify core processes. These are the processes that need to run a certain way because they effect the overall outcome of the business. Shipping and production methods, how you manage finances, HR practices, how often certain key meetings are held, and overall strategy fall into the core processes category. Other processes, like communication styles, how team meetings are run, and tasks you’ve delegated off to employees are not core processes. Sure they need to be done in a timely manner, and done correctly, but you hired your employees because you trusted them and their skillset.
Step 2 – Delegate. Instilling trust is easily done in this area. When there are times when new processes need to be figured out consider asking a manager to oversee it and keep you in the loop. Provide plenty of opportunities to collaborate and acknowledge skills that each employee brings to the table as you assign tasks. Also ask employees to review core processes that are under their management and ask for their input – you’d be surprised how much trust this builds with an employee and how much good you can gain by getting a new perspective.
Tip: Instead of hovering over employees, communicate an open door policy by encouraging questions and being available to advise. Make sure to address something positive so that those who work for you feel like you’re seeing the good as well as things that may need improvement. Even mentioning that you’re “seeing a lot of progress” in a certain area is a positive in many cases.
Micromanage Growth Not Goals
One of the biggest complaints about micromanaging bosses is that they require employees to handle things the same way they would, or they come in and take over altogether. There’s more than one way to do things and as a leader, you should focus on overall growth not the personal goals of employees or how they accomplish them.
The best managers and bosses can see that an employee’s achievement of goals adds to the overall growth of the business. Encourage goal setting as a company (i.e. we’re hoping to gross a certain amount in Q4, etc.) and also as an individual (i.e. Sara’s looking to expand her skill set and wants to take a course; Adam wanted to work on his communication with co-workers, etc). As a boss, your job is to ask about their plans to accomplish their goals, provide ideas if needed, and then check in on their progress from time to time.
Tip: Don’t sweat the small stuff. As a leader and owner of your business, spend your time focusing on big picture items. Let your employees handle the small stuff in any way that brings results. Meet with employees quarterly or as needed to address growth – this will allow you to see new skill sets and also help you know who might be ready for a new task or opportunity.
What other ideas do you have to keep the negative side of micromanagement at bay? What ideas will you implement?
Ben Sutton is the founder of Mazuma USA, an accounting firm providing tax, bookkeeping and payroll services to small businesses. Since founding Mazuma, Ben has established himself as an expert in the small business world. He’s still driven by that same desire to provide accounting help to all small businesses – from photographers, bloggers and creatives to lawyers, doctors, and dentists, everyone needs affordable accounting help. Ben is a Certified Public Accountant, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. But Ben considers his greatest achievement and credential to be his happy wife and four children.