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When you essentially will a company into existence, you have an understandable stake in making sure everything goes well. Each decision. Every pen stroke. The problem is that it's all too easy to turn into a obsessive micromanager in the process.
I've been thinking about this since Thursday, when the New York Times published an interview with Lynn Jurich, the co-founder and CEO of residential solar energy company Sunrun. In the interview, Jurich discussed a leadership tactic she's attempted to implement since launching the company 13 years ago: impeccable agreements. Here's an excerpt:
When you say something, either you follow through with it, or you come back and renegotiate it. But I want to explicitly renegotiate it, so that I know what's changed.
You can then run so much faster as a business because you're not checking on what everybody else is doing. You're going to count on them, and then if for some reason circumstances change, which they do, they are going to come back to you and tell you. You don't have to do all this checking up.
Jurich is basically describing an anti-micromanaging technique--and I think it's a very interesting one, because it's not exactly what I'd call hands-off. Rather than giving broad directives and expecting employees to achieve them on their own terms, Jurich seems to make very specific demands of her workers. Only then does she let them do their jobs, knowing that they'll notify her if those demands become impossible to fulfill down the road.
That's a fascinating approach to learn how to trust your employees, and in turn, stop micromanaging them. If you trust them, you'll be more inclined to give them time and space on a daily basis. If you don't--perhaps because you don't fully trust anyone but yourself--you're more likely to come off as unduly overbearing. (If you're interested in this topic, check out the advice column I wrote about it back in September.)
By trusting her employees to follow through on predetermined instructions, Jurich seems to fall right in the middle. And it's working for her: Sunrun reportedly overtook Tesla last year as the leading installer of residential rooftop solar panels in the U.S.
That's not to say it's the right approach for everyone. You have to find your own level of comfort on the spectrum of hands-on and hands-off management. Instead, consider this particular strategy a potential tool in your leadership toolbox. You'll know when the time is right to use it.