How to Stop Being a Micromanager

Are you a micromanager? Sometimes the first step toward changing unwanted behavior is admitting there’s a problem.

As a small-business owner, do you regularly:

  • Assign a project to an employee, then take it back because he or she isn’t “doing it right”?
  • Find yourself consistently missing deadlines, because everything isn’t “perfect”?
  • Rarely listen to suggestions or input from your employees?
  • Need to know what each employee is doing throughout the workday?
  • Get stuck on little details instead of looking at the big picture?
  • Believe deeply that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself?

If you answered honestly — and in the affirmative — to any or all of the questions above, you may be guilty of micromanaging.

This style of management can inflict serious damage on your small business. Here’s why: Micromanaging sends employees the message that you don’t trust them to do things correctly. Sooner or later, people either begin to doubt their own abilities and do a poor job (just as you “predicted”) or decide they can’t work for you any longer and leave. Either way, you’ll end up with an open position to fill, putting yet another demand on your time and resources.

Here are three ways to quell your urge to micromanage and foster a happier, more productive workplace.

Let go of making things “perfect.” You have an idea in your head about how something should be done, and since it’s your idea, the outcome needs to be “perfect.” Let go of this notion. Realize that there may be other ways to successfully complete a task or a project and that someone else has a viable solution.

Build a strong team. Everything starts by hiring the right employees who are a good fit with your business. As part of the interview process, look closely at how each candidate’s experience meets your needs and how well you think they’ll work with other employees. It may take some trial and error, but you’ll gradually get a sense of exactly whom you’re looking for.

Once you have a solid team in place, encourage everyone to offer suggestions and input, particularly with respect to improving customer service (in many cases, they’ll have much more frontline experience than you do). Give your employees reasonable latitude to make decisions and act on some of their own ideas. Don’t squander their potentially invaluable contributions!

Start delegating. When a particular task needs to be done, look for the employee whose experience and talents make him or her the best choice for the job. Then give them both the authority and the resources to handle the responsibility. At the outset, clearly communicate your expectations to the employee. When appropriate, explain how what they’re doing corresponds to the short- or long-term goals of the business. The more an employee knows, the more he or she is inclined to “own” the assignment.

Consider scheduling weekly progress meetings with employees. This will help you stay abreast of any challenges or obstacles they encounter and feel as if you’re in the loop. Although it may seem crazy, sometimes it’s OK when employees fail to fulfill their responsibilities, too. We all learn from our mistakes, and experience makes us better equipped for future success.

About Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning freelance copywriter and editor and a former Senior Writer for Vistage International, a global membership organization of chief executive officers. He writes frequently on issues and challenges faced by U.S. small businesses.
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3 comments
Randy Square
Randy Square

Micro managing can be the death of many businesses that are sound in concept. Unless everyone is responsible for their own position and allowed to flourish in their role without someone looking over their shoulder and "backseat driving", people quickly lose faith and focus on the task at hand. As a project manager, CEOs are the people I find most guilty of this practice and I typically end up riding them pretty hard to either hire people they trust or let them do what they're paid for.