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The Eight Rules of Management
by Gregory Blencoe

 
   
 
   

Rule #2: Don’t Micromanage

Total control.  That is one of the traits possessed by entrepreneurs that makes them so special.  They have the courage and self-confidence to enter into the ultra-competitive business world and dare to succeed or fail based on the decisions they make. Unfortunately, the need to be in control can get entrepreneurs in trouble when they manage employees.

The positive trait of wanting to be in control leads some entrepreneurs into the negative trait of being controlling.  The result is the dreaded micromanager.  Micromanagers give employees tasks to do and then meddle by overanalyzing every minute detail involved with the job in order to make sure that it is “done right.”  Decisions are constantly second-guessed, individual problem-solving is shunned, and trust is thrown out the window.  Employees feel like they are being treated like children and get very frustrated as a result of being disempowered.  The manager’s actions make it seem as though they have absolutely no confidence in the employee’s ability.  Before you know it, employee morale takes a nosedive.

But, hey, if the manager does not monitor the employee like Big Brother, then the job won’t get done correctly, right?  Wrong.  Employees can do things on their own if they are just given the chance.  The proper way to handle delegating responsibility is to focus on the result you want and give employees the freedom to figure out how the task will be accomplished.  Managers should not worry about how an employee solves a problem as long as the problem will get solved.  On the other hand, not being a micromanager does not mean that you close all lines of communication with employees.  Managers should still monitor progress on projects and should have an open door to address questions that employees need to have answered in order to make a better decision. 

To illustrate how a manager should act, assume you assign an employee the task of driving from Los Angeles to New York and give him a week to do it.  A micromanager would insist on deciding exactly what route to take, exactly how many hours are driven per day, and exactly where to eat and sleep.  The micromanager would then follow the employee all the way across the country and make sure that the instructions are carried out properly.  That seems like a slight waste of time, doesn’t it?  The best way for a manager to handle that situation is to ask the employee to call every few days to make sure that the trip is going as planned.  If there are any problems or questions, the employee can contact the manager and a proper course of action can be taken from that point. 

So, what should be done if employees are given the freedom to do their jobs and they are still constantly doing things wrong?  In this case, managers need to hire somebody who can actually do that job.  A qualified employee does not need anybody to constantly hold their hand.  The goal should be to hire good employees so the manager does not have to always worry about that job function.

One key point to keep in mind is the rule for not micromanaging only applies to employees that have already been fully trained.  During the initial phase of employment, managers should spend a lot of time with employees to make sure that they are trained properly and feel sufficiently comfortable with what they are supposed to do.  Leaving an employee alone when they are first hired makes about as much sense as leaving a newborn baby all alone.  However, once employees are fully trained, don’t keep making them wear diapers.

Under normal circumstances, once the training process is finished employees can be given the freedom to make their own decisions and everybody is happy.  However, as crazy as it may sound, some employees actually want to be micromanaged (we will call them microemployees).  Microemployees keep asking questions without making any attempt to make a decision themselves.  They constantly bring problems to the manager instead of solutions.  These employees must be forced to make decisions on their own.  These employees will have a difficult time adjusting when the bulk of the responsibility is placed on themselves. Despite this initial resistance, it is imperative that managers hold their ground and force employees to think and make decisions on their own without having the managers hold their hands.

Let employees know what needs to be done and then get out of their way.  Don’t be a micromanager unless you want microprofits.

Rule #3

       
   
 
       
   

The Author

The Art of Management

Gregory J. Blencoe is a management consultant and author of The Art of Management.  He has written articles for numerous magazines including Success, Human Resources Executive, Business Credit, and Canadian Business Franchise.  Please feel free to contact him with any questions at gblencoe@aol.com.

 
       
   
 
       
   
Many more articles in Creative Leadership in The CEO Refresher Archives
 
       
   
 
       
   
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Copyright 2001 by Gregory J. Blencoe. All rights reserved.

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