I Do Better When Micromanaged, Said No Employee Ever

Let me tell you a story to see if you recognize yourself.

Years ago, I was facilitating my previous company's senior management meeting. At the time, we weren’t hitting our sales and profit goals. The business had stagnated, and I was barking orders right and left. It didn’t seem to be making any difference, so out of frustration, I asked the team if they felt they were being micromanaged. Of course, everyone said no. I felt vindicated until… my VP of Sales took me aside at the break and, in a congenial tone, said “Well, Doug, they’re uncomfortable saying this, but I have to tell you that you do micromanage us, as well as other employees.”  My initial reaction was denial. I don’t micromanage! But upon reflection, I knew the VP of Sales was correct. It was my “eureka moment.” 

So, do you recognize yourself in this story? Can you relate? For entrepreneurs who have grown their startups into established organizations, it’s very common to fall prey to micromanaging their employees. You don’t have to be an owner either. Managers in all kind of fields and industries are also guilty of micromanaging.

The reasons for micromanaging are varied—ego, insecurity, inexperience, perfectionism, distrust, arrogance. But regardless of the reason, the outcome is always the same—a breakdown in trust, unmotivated employees, poor performance, and high turnover.

It took time for me to change my habits and become a leader who empowered my team. As a result, it took more than a year before my team truly trusted me as a leader willing to turn over power to them. Over time, we transformed into an organization whose sales more than doubled and our EBITDA grew from 5% to 10%. More importantly, we created a transparent and authentic culture. It was a place with people who wanted to work, who had a passion for their jobs, and as a result, thrived in the empowered environment. So did the company. 

The bottom line is very simple… entrepreneurs cannot sustain long-term growth unless they hire great people. Great people won’t work long for micromanagers because it’s insulting to their professional capabilities. At the end of the day, you have two choices: continue to micromanage at the price of your company’s success or harness your potential growth by empowering others. 

A great leader has to recognize that hyper-involvement does not equal super results.  Empowered leaders delegate responsibility, set up processes, establish expectations, create Key Performance Indicators, and hold direct reports accountable. Building relationships and establishing trust are paramount to successful sustainable growth.

Most likely you will have to reinvent the culture within the organization. Does this happen overnight? No, in fact it may take as long two years. Why is that? If a micromanagement culture has existed for several years, that’s all your employees have ever known. So their default behavior will be that of adapting to your micromanaged style. It will take time for you to prove to them that you’ve changed and the culture has changed. Step back and empower your team and watch the transformation occur.

Cheers and Be in Gratitude,

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