“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” - Ronald Reagan

“I surround myself with the subservient and inferior, delegate only the mundane, and interfere at every opportunity to get it done my way.” - Micro-manager


Even though it is easy for their employees to recognize, few entrepreneurs or executives have the self-awareness to recognize that they are micromanagers.  Even fewer have the courage to admit it and deal with it effectively.

Last week I had the privilege of meeting with an amazing entrepreneur who not only recognized the problem and its destructive nature, but was willing to take the needed steps to overcome his addiction to control.  He had held on so tightly to the reins that his people couldn’t function without him.  His organizational and customer demands had grown so complex that he couldn’t handle everything that he piled on his own plate and, predictably, his business suffered.

As a business coach, it is particularly refreshing to meet someone who recognized that they were exhibiting some of the symptoms of micromanaging:

  • Avoiding delegation of any decisions
  • Insisting that everything, including trivial details, be done “their way”
  • Performing work that subordinates are paid to perform
  • Explaining that one’s management style is based on structure or perfectionism

These are some of the milder symptoms that are indications of either misguided beliefs or gaps in skill sets.  There are other, more serious, symptoms that may actually be signs of personality disorders which are acutely destructive to the organization and which require a different level of intervention.

What drives entrepreneurs and executives to become micromanagers?  Often, this behavior is driven by the same thing that led to their success—they were exceptional performers in the roles of their subordinates.  They were the best programmers, technicians, engineers, or (insert role here).  They are comfortable in that role.  They are uncomfortable and, in many cases, unprepared to perform at the same level in their new role as leader.  People naturally revert back to their comfort zones when they don’t have the skills to lead effectively.

In his Open Letter to Micromanagers, Scott Berkun does an excellent job of getting to the heart of the matter:

Even if you are 30% better at a task than someone who works for you, the time it takes for you to check on them every few hours, and demand approvals over trivial decisions, costs more in lost morale, passion for work, and destruction of self-respect among your staff than the 30% you think you’re adding. No one works well if they feel they are being treated like an idiot child. Having two people involved in work that should only require one wastes everyone’s time.

Not only are micromanagers stunting their own growth, but that of their employees as well.

Says Berkun, “Good managers are brave, and generous with trust in their people. They want them to mature in their judgment and grow in their skills, preferring to err on the side of trusting too much than trusting too little. They take pleasure in letting go and giving power away to their staff, accepting that when someone who works for them shines, they shine too.

But if you do not enjoy these things, and struggle to trust you staff, or can’t bear to see a decision made or reward earned without your name all over it, you should stop managing people. You and everyone who works for you will be happier if you did.”  Have the courage to acknowledge the symptoms and to confront the issue and your organization will be better positioned to thrive.

Your business coach will help you recognize the problem and develop the skills that will not only boost your effectiveness, but also that of your employees.  Call today.

08-17-2012 10:31:16