Why micromanaging isn’t always a bad thing

Why micromanaging isn’t always a bad thing

August 27, 2017

“If you want something done right, do it yourself.” – Charles-Guillaume Étienne (1778-1845), French playwright.

I can see you there, your eyes piercing the headline and the quote and shaking your head in disagreement. But bear with me for a moment. In an entrepreneurial world where inclusion, delegation, communication and trust are the cornerstones of having a successful business thanks to those who work for you, it’s important to know not only when to let your company run on cruise control, but when to step on the brakes and take control of the wheel. Case in point . . .

When a company is doing well, especially a small company, the boss is happy. And when the boss is happy, the employees are usually happy. And when the employees are happy they tend to increase their productivity, which hopefully translates into continued success. But something else also happens when the boss is happy – he or she will have a tendency to ease up on his or her employees and in some cases look the other way on some things. After all, as the boss you don’t want to upset the status quo.

But by being too laid back too frequently and not being as engaged as perhaps you once were, your company can quickly transform into a lax environment where employees become complacent and when that happens that contentment festers a culture of negligence and sloppiness, turning your once sound and successful business into a shadow of what it once was.

Now, before you start panicking and institute a strict micromanagement policy, take a step back and understand that empowering employees and avoiding micromanaging them on a daily basis is essential to your business’ success. Sometimes horrible things happen when you micromanage your staff with too much attention to detail such as creating employees that are overly dependent on management, having a loss of both trust and autonomy and yielding a high turnover of staff.

So, what’s the trade off? When should you micromanage and when shouldn’t you? As a business owner, it’s your job to know when to let your employees make the decision and when to step in, take control and avoid leaving things to chance. You and you alone are responsible for calling the shots.

Here are five instances when it’s appropriate to micromanage.

1.     When your company is in crisis mode.

If you are in a situation where your company must turnaround to survive, you must lead by example to have all your employees work together to move the company in the same direction. If you are forced to streamline your staff, some of your employees may find themselves doing tasks they don’t normally do, and as the head honcho you will need to work more closely with your staff. In this scenario micromanaging is essential to turning a company around, but you must remember that it’s only a short-term solution.

2.     When time is not on your side. 

If your company finds itself in the unenviable position of having a time-sensitive deliverable placed before it, you cannot presume that your employees understand the scope, depth, importance or urgency of the deliverable. All too often when faced with a time crunch, unseasoned employees tend to over promise and under deliver causing irreparable harm to your company. In this situation it’s best to take a hands-on approach to ensure your company meets its challenge.

3.     When your employees ask too many questions.

If you have a new employee or if someone who has worked for you has been put into a new role and they are sending you an unusually high number of emails detailing their work and asking a lot of questions as it pertains to the tasks they are assigned, there is a very good chance they are seeking help. In this scenario it’s best to work side-by-side with your employee to insure they understand their role so that your company maintains its success.

4.     When your company is expanding.

Similar to operating in crisis mode, your company’s success or failure may be contingent on how you manage your resources. If your company is expanding by moving into a new market or into a new line of business, the decision to micromanage your employees will depend on the skills and competency of your staff. Always make sure you have the right people for the right job.

5.     When results are unacceptable. 

There are usually several areas in a company where positive results are essential for success. If you are finding that week after week and month after month the results are not as you expected them to be, you must step forward and ask those who are responsible for more information as to why. As the business owner you must ask your employees what is being done to turn the situation around. Be realistic and unless you have the solution readily available, don’t expect overnight miracles. If they do not have an answer or if a turnaround doesn’t occur within a reasonable time, you should investigate further to see what changes you can make.

While there might be other instances when micromanaging is appropriate, be sure to evaluate them on a case-by-case basis. Remember, it’s your business and even the most loyal and conscientious employee will not have the same skin in the game as you do.

Perhaps look at how Steve Jobs managed his companies. When he left Apple to start NeXT Computer, Jobs literally micromanaged the new company out of existence; he got involved in so much minutia he became ineffective. By contrast, he was completely “hands off” at Pixar. So, when he returned to Apple, he took those two experiences into consideration and evolved into a much more capable executive who was willing to delegate many of the important duties to others, such as Tim Cook and Jonny Ive.

It’s not that he never micromanaged again – as a very “hands on” visionary that would never happen. However, he often delegated some of the most important duties at Apple to those who he knew could do a better job than him.

The end result? Within 10 years of his return to Apple, the company went from being on the verge of collapse, to becoming the most valuable company in the world.