Are you constantly asking your employees for updates or progress reports? Do you prefer to handle even the simplest tasks rather than teach someone else how to do them? Are projects often delayed because you insist on approving everything yourself? Chances are you could be micromanaging your team.
One of the biggest management challenges new and experienced small business owners face is learning how to properly delegate responsibilities as their companies grow. Those who find it difficult or impossible to delegate often become micromanagers.
The Downside of Failing to Delegate
Unfortunately, micromanaging can have serious consequences for you, your employees, and your business. Employees rarely appreciate a boss who needs to control every aspect of the business. Many feel distrusted, undervalued, or become convinced they can never meet their manager’s standards. This can result in low morale and dissatisfied staff who, over time, disengage, become less productive, and ultimately leave for a job that offers greater freedom.
By restricting the professional development of your team, you are also limiting the growth of your business. In addition, small business owners often don’t have time to manage their own responsibilities, much less those of their staff. If you are trying to oversee everything yourself, you are at risk of burnout as a result of stretching yourself too thin.
How to Avoid Micromanaging
Tomorrow is National Boss’s Day, so now is the perfect time to consider these five fundamental strategies to avoid over-controlling your team.
1 – Determine Why You Micromanage
Getting to the root of why you micromanage is an important step in changing your behavior. Most managers keep a tight grip on things for a reason. Maybe you have a fear of losing control, or are uncomfortable in your leadership role and reluctant to let go of responsibilities you previously handled well. Perhaps you worry about your ability to lead your company to success and use micromanaging as a way to keep busy and avoid confronting the issue. Whatever the reason, it is critical that you take the time to identify what you are doing and why, and understand the impact your behavior has on your team.
2 – Ask for Employee Input
Confident small business owners combat micromanaging by seeking input from their employees. This can be as simple as asking, “How often would you like me to check in?” or “How would you like to be held accountable?”
No two employees are alike, so asking them how they want to be managed will give you valuable insight into how you can be a more effective leader – and help establish trust between you and your staff.
3 – Get Out of the Weeds
Being the boss means keeping your eye on the big picture. To do this, you need to get out of the weeds and focus your time and attention on the activities that only you can do. If you find yourself micromanaging others, it is typically an indication that you are not delegating effectively.
If you find it tough to let go, start by identifying low-value work you can delegate to trusted staff. Give employees the authority to make certain decisions on their own. If you’re currently being CC’d on virtually every email, allow staff to remove you from those that don’t directly involve you. By starting small, you’ll be able to build up to handing off tasks and responsibilities that are more critical to your business.
4 – Don’t Just Instruct, Empower
Many small business owners micromanage because they don’t trust that someone else can do the job as well as they can. Effective leaders acknowledge this issue and work to move past it in order to empower their employees to succeed.
Clearly articulate expectations of the team as a whole to establish camaraderie and a shared vision. Tell employees what you want them to do and let them figure out how to get there. If they are not doing the task as you would do it, ask questions to gain understanding (rather than criticizing) and provide constructive feedback. Encourage open communication and keep your inquiries to a minimum.
Keep in mind that you have a responsibility to avoid using delegation as a test of your staff’s ability. Setting employees up for failure by not giving them the tools, support, and authority to achieve results creates a culture of fear. Instead, let your team know they can come to you with problems or questions and you are there to mentor and support their success. This will prepare them for bigger and more important assignments in the future.
Whether you are delegating because your desk is overflowing or because it’s time to give managers the chance to lead, allocating tasks empowers your team, instills a sense of trust, and gives them the opportunity to let their strengths shine.
5 – Focus on Managing Your Culture
Effective leaders focus more on managing their company culture than on managing their people – and for good reason. Culture-conscious companies typically out-earn and outperform their competition.
You are the embodiment of your company’s values and standards, and along with your leadership team you must represent your firm’s culture and exemplify everything it stands for. Make sure you can communicate clearly with employees about the values, beliefs, and behaviors they are expected to embrace. Displaying passion for what you believe in and integrity in how you accomplish it will inspire others to follow your lead.
As a small business owner, you care deeply about your company’s reputation and want the best for your team and your customers. Trusting your employees and giving them the support and freedom to do their jobs well – and contribute to the firm’s success – will result in a more positive and productive workplace and higher profits for your business.