Is micromanaging hurting your business?
Micromanaging your employees is a common problem among small business owners. Maybe it’s because delegating tasks is typically very difficult for entrepreneurs. (After all, lots of us start our businesses because we think we can do it better than anyone else…so why would we let anyone else do it their way?)
Women entrepreneurs, in particular, can easily fall prey to micromanaging. Maybe it’s the fact that we tend to be “helpers” and want to take care of our staff. Maybe it’s because we’re natural multitaskers, so adding “one more thing” to our plates is natural for us. Or maybe it’s that many of us want to be liked—so instead of asking people to learn something challenging or take on an unpleasant task, we just do it for them.
Risks of being a micromanager
Maybe micromanaging doesn’t seem that bad to you. After all, you know the best way to do everything, so why not instruct the rest of the team? Well, micromanaging can have serious consequences for both you and your business, including:
- Burnout. Small business owners rarely have time to manage their own to-do list, much less keep an eye on everyone else’s. If you’re trying to oversee everything yourself, you’ll eventually get stretched too thin to function.
- Dissatisfied employees. When employees feel like “puppets” with no agency over their jobs, they’ll disengage from work and become less effective. They may even start looking for other jobs that offer more freedom.
Signs that you’re a micromanager
You might be a micromanager if…
- You’re constantly “checking in” with your employees. You want to see daily updates or progress reports on everything.
- You’re never satisfied with how your employees do things, even when they get the job done.
- You frequently handle low-value tasks yourself rather than take the time to teach an employee how to do them.
- Projects get delayed waiting for your approval…because you insist on approving everything yourself.
If you’re a micromanager, you may be squirming guiltily in recognition right now.
Not sure if you’re a micromanager? Here are some ways to find out:
- Do a self-assessment. For one week, jot down what you do all day (not just the big stuff, but the little stuff). At the end of that week, sit down and assess. Were the projects you spent time on things that only you could do? Or were you unnecessarily duplicating other people’s work? Maybe you need to check up on your staff’s progress once a week—but do you need to do it every day? Are you still handling tasks that could be done by an assistant?
- Get feedback from your staff. Ask them honestly whether they feel you’re micromanaging. (Make sure they feel comfortable being honest.) Years ago, one of my business partners learned the hard way that she was too much of a micromanager when she got some brutally honest feedback from an employee during a performance review. She realized she had to “let go” and trust her staff to do what they were trained to do—rather than fussing over every detail of how they did it.
How to stop micromanaging
Once you’ve admitted you’re a micromanager, how can you stop? Follow these steps.
- Identify low-value work you can delegate (and really let go of). By starting small, you’ll be able to build up to trusting your employees with work that’s more critical to your business.
- Tell employees what you want them to do (the goal) and let them figure out how to get there. They just might come up with a better approach to the work than yours.
- Give employees the authority to make some decisions on their own. For example, is a manager authorized to give a customer a refund without checking with you first?
- If you’re currently being CC’d on just about every email, tell the staff they can remove you from emails that don’t directly affect you.
Weaning yourself off micromanagement takes some time and effort. You will need to set aside time to train your staff in things that they can do without you. And you’ll need to “loosen up” and trust that they can do it. But in the end, letting go will pay off in more time for you, happier employees, and higher profits for your business.
Need help fine-tuning your management style? You can talk to SCORE mentors online or in person.