When you think about your business or the one you are employed in, how would you answer the following:
- To what extent are we customer focused vs. boss or system focused?
- Do some or many of the boss-employee conversations feel more like a performance review rather than just a conversation?
- Do many decisions that you make need to be approved or have you found that approval processes are slowing you and the business down?
- Does the business suffer from bottlenecks due to excess meetings and ‘gatekeepers”?
- Is there inconsistency and some confusion in the business regarding you taking some control?
- Have you experienced opinion reservation? i.e., opinions are not freely expressed.
- Do you feel that too many tasks are completely neglected in the business?
- Have you found that often deliverables are late?
- Do you think that there are too many ‘checks and balances’ in the system, even though they are there for good intent?
- Is there a lack of new leadership and talented experts in the business?
This list is not exhaustive but covers most situations of how and where you will find evidence of micromanagement in your business. (I encourage you to re-read the list very purposefully.)
You see, micromanagement is like an itch. You take one little scratch, and you are called back for another and another. The founding itch then pales into insignificance compared to the ‘wound’ you have created.
Micromanagement begets micromanagement, and one day you raise your head and see your entire business is stifled with a culture of micromanagement. The origin of this demise is easy to justify:
We are taught to set up ‘checks and balances’ in the business, this is management theory 101 stuff. We encounter mishaps, such as late delivery, an angry customer, manufacturing or order errors, even legislative changes that demand more tick-boxes. Just as the first scratch was justified, so do we need to set up another safety net.
It takes brave, forwarding thinking leadership to plot a course that is different to that of all your competitors and to recognise external shifts that are occurring at a macro level, which will ultimately affect our business (considers Porter’s Five Forces here.)
Life is full of ambiguity and uncertainty, so when you consider to what extent your business is suffering under micro-management, consider the opinion of others in your business based on those 10 questions. Businesses that suffer from micromanagement tend to display the following traits:
- The struggle to attract and retain top talent (those who know me, know I go on about this ad nauseum – this should be your top weapon!!)
- Are slower to adapt to change and lack in innovation.
- Their speed of growth is restricted.
- Overall employee stress levels are higher and job satisfaction lower than in non-micromanaged businesses.
- They tend to be more key-person dependant.
- There is a lack of trust and honesty within the business.
The myth about micromanagement
I guess most will agree with the points shown above, but I was surprised to learn from some Gallup research that the stereotypical impression of a micro-manager is incorrect. One thinks of a manager who wanders around looking to crack their whip to get the targeted performance levels. In fact, the exact opposite is what happens. It is the complete lack of employee feedback and communication with their manager.
None of us is born being a great manager or a leader: they are skills that we acquire over time. If we get the opportunity to perfectly practice them, we become better at them and at some point will shed the ‘manager’ connotation that they come with. We may ultimately become excellent leaders, role models and coaches to inspire the best in our employees. (I hope this article is one of the incentives to drive you in this direction.)
A Framework for Abolishing Micro-Management in your business
They say that half the solution to any problem is merely figuring out the correct question. Hopefully, I have addressed that aspect so far. Now to work on a fix- to create a climate of non-micromanagement in your business.
Those familiar with the 5 dysfunctions of a team (Patrick Lencioni, highly recommended reading), will see the resemblance with his model vs. this one.
I recommend that you print this model out and over time figure out how and where you can incorporate it in your business. Here are the key concepts:
1. Culture: Trust & Accountability
Trust is the foundation of this all. Without building trust in the culture within your business, you won’t even get out of the starting blocks. (Brene Brown has some excellent material on this, especially with regards to vulnerability and trust.)
Another extremely important aspect (and this comes down to the title of this article) the question is NOT about micromanagement vs. accountability. Rather it is about creating a context of how you can shed micromanagement and at the same time increase self-accountability.
2. Focus on Strengths
This one is a little more challenging to get your head around, so let’s start out by saying what it is not. It is NOT about trying to boost confidence and ego by superficially dishing out praise. With micromanagement we tend to mask the good and the bad in everyone, for it is the very act of micromanaging that takes its place. What we really want is the activities being done by the people who can best do these. Let’s identify the true strengths and development areas and allow people to flourish in these areas within the business.
This comes straight out of John Doerr’s work and relates to the Conversations, Feedback and Recognitions that take place in a business. When I speak to business owners most of them feel that they are already effective in this area – they are not. This area in your business needs to be ramped up 100-fold.
4. Personal Development
This applies to you and your staff. Taking a personal interest in your own and that of your employee’s personal development. You are paying them, make sure you get 100% out of them. You may not be surprised to learn that very few people have excellent role models in their lives, few understand or have the commitment to work on a personal life plan, and few businesses really understand where employees see themselves in even 1 years’ time.
Invest in the development of your people.
5. Deliberate Focus
What you focus on grows, what you ignore shrinks – this is a rule of life. And we can add to this: the more things you focus on, the fewer things grow. The golden rule is to limit your areas of focus to no more than 3 aspects.
So, after reading through this article on eliminating micromanagement from your business, what are the 1 to 3 primary areas that you would like to focus on?
These areas need to become so ingrained in your business that they become second nature. Equally, you need to think about how you will measure progress in these areas, for if you have no measure, it will be difficult to know if you are really moving forward.
At the core of this article is the message about developing a culture in your business that embraces self-accountability at the expense of micromanagement. The subject is vast, and the implementation does require adaptation and constant fine-tuning within each business. Culture is never fixed and can take a year or longer to show genuine improvement. If you would like help in this area, then please reach out.
If you are interested in this subject and would like to continue your self-learning, then I encourage you to read the book: ‘No Rules Rule’ and truly fascinating book on Netflix and the culture of reinvention.
If you are committed to improving your business, then Sukuma is available for a free trial. The premises behind Sukuma as an online programme is to encourage the development of the team to be more aligned to the overall business strategy and its execution.
Contact the author: Sean Foster, firstname.lastname@example.org