Taking an active role in the operations of your company usually leads to positive results, but businesses of all sizes can suffer when owner involvement crosses into micromanaging territory. Employees can become disgruntled, plus growth and scale will be inhibited. In this article, we’ll explain how you can avoid these scenarios and be an effective leader without micromanaging your team.
What is micromanaging?
Thinking that you’re the only one who can properly do the job is the mindset that spawns a micromanaged environment. This is a common dilemma with small business owners and startups. Founders tend to be more hands-on because they have a significant investment in the business. It’s difficult for them to let others do critical jobs.
Micromanagement is motivated by the need to directly control all aspects of your business. An example of this is to assign a task to an employee, then watch over their shoulder as they complete it. Micromanagers don’t allow their teams to do anything without constant input and regular check-ins. Ineffective management can slow down operations and create a toxic culture rather than a work environment that fosters productivity and innovation.
Am I micromanaging?
Owners and team leaders can easily justify micromanagement as a strategy to make sure things “get done right.” Unfortunately, that attitude prevents them from seeing their own actions as a potential detriment to their organization. Have you looked in the mirror to assess this recently? Here are some of the warning signs to watch out for:
- You need to be involved in every conversation and decision
- You ignore others’ opinions
- You focus on details instead of big picture/strategy
- You refuse to delegate tasks
- You take over work after the smallest mistake
Your first reaction to this might be defensive, but it’s important to be open minded. Micromanagers normally have good intentions when it comes to the success of the company, and those shouldn’t change. The way that you operate needs to evolve if you want your company to grow.
The dangers of micromanagement
Micromanaging creates a stressful environment, kills creativity and innovation, and demotivates your team. It also hurts communication because employees won’t be motivated to share their ideas with you. Why provide input if you’re going to do it your way anyway? Being the only voice in the team meeting doesn’t make you an effective leader. It creates the following:
- Employee burnout
- Lack of trust
- High attrition rate
- A dependent workforce
- Lack of innovation
- Inability to scale
These elements are a recipe for failure. Larger companies with multiple departments or locations can clearly see the inefficiencies that micromanaged teams exhibit. Small business owners may need to work harder to notice it. Sadly, micromanagers may not recognize the issue until it’s already impacted their team. That’s why it’s critical to collect employee feedback, even anonymously, and make it a priority to build a collaborative, welcoming company culture.
How to manage without micromanaging
The first step in any 12-step program is about admitting you have a problem. The rest of the steps are taken to correct that problem and live a different way of life. If you’re a micromanager and recognize it, you can change. Here are some of the ways you can do that:
1. Communicate effectively
First-time business owners usually think they know how to manage a team, until they need to do it. One of the keys to success is open and clear two-way communication. Be transparent about what you want and listen to feedback from your people. Try to do your team meetings in a casual environment, like over a meal, so they feel comfortable opening up.
2. Set goals and use metrics
David Marquet has a great video on YouTube called “Leadership in a Submarine” that talks about leading without micromanaging. The gist of it is that you state your goals, then allow your team to do the work to achieve them. There’s no need to control every step of the process. You can set up metrics to measure their progress without interfering with their activity.
3. Accept failure
Successful people make mistakes, learn from them, and try not to make them again. That’s called personal growth. As a leader, you need to learn to accept failure and allow your employees to recover from it. Don’t step in and do the job for them. Allowing them to see their errors can help them understand why they need to do it differently. Mistakes should be a learning experience.
4. Focus on results
Micromanagers can get hyper-focused on the details of a project instead of taking a step back and worrying about the bigger picture. Great leaders focus on outcomes first. They allow their teams to create the processes that lead to success. If you’re consumed by the minutiae, you’ll never have enough focus to grow and scale your business.
5. Stay involved from afar
We’re not suggesting you let go of the wheel completely. You can still check in periodically to get status updates on work. Weekly meetings or regular check-ins with team members can keep you in the loop without allowing you to get too far into the weeds. Remember, it’s the results that matter. The details of how your team gets those results are a secondary concern.
6. Develop as a leader
Learning how to lead a team without micromanaging doesn’t happen overnight. Delegating tasks to your team can be hard, especially for a new business owner. Develop your leadership skills by coaching them how to handle new responsibilities, then step back and let them do the job. You can always step back in if they struggle and need your input.
7. Hire the right people
Micromanagers often claim they take on certain tasks and responsibilities because their employees can’t handle it. That could be an overinflated sense of self-importance, or it could be a real need for better talent. Hire the right people for the job. It will be easier to delegate to them if you have confidence in their abilities. And the other piece of it is trust––you need to trust that you have hired the right people, and that they’ll handle their roles effectively.
8. Use tools that streamline processes
The fear of human error might make you hesitant to delegate tasks like expense and bill management. However, you can streamline your accounts payable processes by using AI or automation. For example, you can set your bills to autopay through your business checking account. Finding opportunities to automate processes could be your first step toward letting go and focusing on big-picture vision instead of the small details.
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