Micromanagement: Fodder for Failure

Monday, December 02, 2013

The tempation is almost overwhelming at times, if you're a manager or business owner.  You find yourself with a task sitting in front of you and you think to yourself, as any responsible business person would think: "I should just go ahead and take care of this."  And so you do it.  Without any hesitation, you handle it, and sometimes without any follow up to let your employee or team member know that you've done it.

Sometime later, perhaps even sooner, the employee or team member finds out about it.  They're puzzled by why you did what you did, but they say nothing.  And that's because you're the boss.  Who wants to ask the boss why they did what they did?  He is the boss, after all and can do whatever he jolly well pleases.  Plus, it helped that person out by removing a task from their to-do list, right?  So why not be happy and just say nothing?

Believe it or not, this is part of micromanagement, and it is a pathway to chaos.  Play it out in your head for a moment.  Or spend a moment recalling what's happened before, if this is true for you.
  • The following week the employee or team member faces the same or similar task and they remember that you decided to do it for them.  
  • In that moment, they too make a sudden decision and decide that since they don't have time, you'll probably handle it for them, and sometimes without any follow up to let you know what happened.
  • Then, sooner or later, you find out that the task wasn't done.  
  • So you remind yourself about the responsibilities this person has, and the training you've so responsibly provided.  Why would they all of the sudden decide to not do it and assume that you would do it?  
Then ask yourself the same question:  Why would you all of the sudden decide to do it and assume that it was okay?

The bottom line is this: when you've given a responsibility or task to a team member, entrust them to get it done.  Embrace the fact that if and when you arbitrarily decide to do it for them, you will actually introduce chaos and confusion into a situation that was probably working quite well otherwise. 

I've made this mistake myself so many times that I can write things like this now and show you how to avoid the potholes!  I now can also share the truth from experience that when you micromanage, even unintentionally, even in the name of helping them out, even in the name of "well, it's right here in front of me and I might as well take care of it," you're actually injecting confusion into the mix.  And eventually you both will be frustrated.

Here are the steps to follow to avoid micromanaging your way into chaos.

1.  Owner / Manager: designate a person to do something.
2.  Owner / Manager: demonstrate how to do it.
3.  Employee / Team Member: duplicate the effort to prove they understand it.
4.  Owner / Manager: delegate it to them to do from then on.
5.  Owner: don't deviate from the plan you just made.
6.  Owner / Team Member: agree when & where to follow up to make sure it's getting done.

If I explained it in anymore depth, I'm afraid I'd actually make it more complicated.  If you've done those things, then you're on your way to a great start in giving yourself a cease-and-desist order from micromanaging any longer.  You can't afford to keep doing it, emotionally or financially.  Make it up, give it away, & follow it up.


About the Author: Rob is a follower of Jesus at Jubilee Church.  From there he pursues Jesus' mission at Revive Consignment as the Business & Operations Development Director, as well as at Jubilee Church of Atlanta, in Woodstock, GA. From there he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 20 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.

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