One thing that continues to shock me is the amount of micro management that happens inside businesses today and it only seems to be getting worse. Maybe I am mistaken, but throughout my career I have tried to make sure that I have the right person assigned for the right job. Or as one of my colleagues so eloquently put it, ‘there is a butt for every seat!’
Many of you already know about all the parallels I use between football and management. I do this to help illustrate internal structures and responsibilities. Even when somebody doesn’t really follow football, they do understand the basic principles and usually this helps to simplify the same rules that apply in business. So to continue along that theme this blog is about Micro Managers and their effect on a team.
I have always believed that you need to hire the right person for the position, train them on the policies and procedures, give them clear direction of your expectations, empower them to make decisions, and then hold them accountable for their performance. However, while this is all common sense, it is rarely common practice. It has been my experience that too many managers feel they have to get involved with everything their team does. While it is important to have spot checks and evaluate progress, micro managing will kill a high performer’s drive. It will also cause you to have an increased amount of workload, because you have instilled a sense of fear and dependency amongst your team and everyone is afraid to make any decision without your counsel. One easy gut check is to ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I have team members asking me how to do their job?
2. Do my team members come to me to make decisions for them?
3. Do I have team members coming to me with everyday simple problems?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then there is a chance you are micro managing your team. While all managers could answer yes to all these questions from time to time, if you are constantly being bombarded, you are probably a micro manager.
In football a head coach will put together the plays, the game plan, and probably even script out the first several plays. However, after the huddle breaks and the quarterback surveys the defense, he has the ability to change the play and call an audible. In other words the coach has empowered him to make a last minute decision based on his experience and training. Now don’t take this the wrong way, the coach and the quarterback have spent countless hours reviewing tapes and planning for required adjustments prior to the game, but when it comes down to it, the coach lets the quarterback make the call.
There are times that you will want your team to come to you for instruction or to make decisions, but that should be spelled out in your expectations and only apply to things that will have a substantial effect on the task at hand or the successful completion of a project. If you are handling, or getting involved in, day to day activities, then what purpose does that team member serve? Either you have the wrong butt in that seat (such as a linemen playing QB) or you have not provided that team member with the proper training & expectations nor empowered them to effectively own their role on the team.
Over the years I have seen many great managers, employees, and even interns ruined by micro management. As our economy continues to struggle, large corporations are putting in more policies and procedures (red tape) to try and have more control over everyday decisions that should be trusted to management. They are taking everyday decision making duties and “streamlining” them into corporate mandates, taking away any power the manager had to help influence his customer base, vendors, and team. They are taking away the ability of managers to make decisions that affect the bottom line and the profitability of their group. I have been slowly watching companies turn managers into figure heads for nothing more than to be a lamb led to the slaughter when the balance sheet dips into the red. If you want to lose your top performers, then this is a perfect way to do so. However, if you want to retain the best in the business you have to empower them to make those decisions and then hold them accountable. Real leaders and true managers want that power, and embrace it. They understand that they will be held accountable, but that they also control their own destiny. The best way to kill a strong leader or manager is to start holding them accountable for things they have no control over.
In the end it is all about job satisfaction and your team members wanting to do a good job. As managers we need to make sure that we are empowering our teams to be self reliant. We should all be taking the time to make sure that we hire the right butt for each seat. Train them and empower them with responsibility, and then hold them accountable to those decisions. All in all, let the quarterback make the call.