A friend of ours who conducts leadership training seminars and does supervisor training for large Fortune 50 companies recently told us that micromanaging is the biggest mistake new leaders, managers and supervisors make.
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It's one of the most common management mistakes around, even in small businesses.
Sooner or later, every small business owner falls prey to the dreaded accusation of micromanagement.
The accuser usually comes in the form of an employee who feels that he or she has been undermined, underrated, or just plain underappreciated. From your standpoint, you've done nothing wrong. After all, it is your business and at the end of the day you are the one who is responsible for its success or failure. So what's the big deal?
The big deal is that although it is your business, you need a team to make it work. If your team is going to succeed, you need to learn how to work together - as a team. To do that, every member of the team needs to understand their role and know they are making a valuable contribution to the team's goals.
Micromanagement undercuts the whole team concept because it tells employees that their contributions are insignificant. Even worse, it leaves them with the impression that you don't trust them to do the job you hired them to do, and without trust you're going to have a hard time achieving success.
Cut the cord
If you've fallen into the habit of micromanaging your employees, the good news is that you can change. The first step toward change is making a conscious decision to cut the cord - to give your employees the freedom they need to do their jobs without constant supervision. This may be uncomfortable for you at first, especially if you're used to keeping very close tabs on your workforce. But keep at it! Before long, employee morale will improve and your productivity will go through the roof.
Sometimes what employees interpret as micromanagement is really just a lack of positive reinforcement from their boss. When an employee does a good job, don't be stingy with your praise. If your employees know you are proud of the job they are doing, they will be less defensive when you stop in to check out their progress.
Give them the freedom to fail
Failure is a fact of life. So the question isn't whether or not your employees are going to make mistakes (because sometimes they will), but rather how you react to those mistakes when they occur. Any inventor will tell you that failure can be a great learning experience. If you treat your employees' mistakes as learning experiences, they will respect you for it. But if you use their mistakes as an excuse to micromanage your company, they will resent you. The choice is yours. Choose wisely.
Stay close from a distance
Avoiding micromanagement doesn't mean that you have to stop managing your business. It's entirely reasonable for you to expect results and periodic progress reports from your employees. You can and should continue to keep an eye on what's happening in your workplace, but as much as possible try to do it from a distance. In other words, you shouldn't feel compelled to literally look over your employees' shoulders as they work if you can achieve the same results from a less "intimate" distance through written reports, e-mail, or periodic walk-throughs.