As a manager or CEO it can be extremely difficult to self-diagnose whether you are a micro-manager or not. Especially if you run a fast-growing company, you might expect that your job entails staying on top of every detail, meeting, and conversation inside the business--let alone insuring that all your people are performing. After all, you know the business better than anyone? That just about sounds like your job description, right?
But there is a difference in doing your job well and being a micro-manager--which is when you take your responsibilities to unhealthy levels. That's when people inside the organization become disempowered and disenchanted because you're the one who is making all the decisions. This then creates a vicious cycle where you jump further into the fray because you don't think your employees are doing their job. Would you imagine that the CEO of a $100 million revenue business is a micro-manager? How about a $1 billion firm?
Do you see how this can go downhill fast?
The good news is that there are several clear signs that you are falling into the trap of micromanagement.
1. You go to every meeting held by your subordinates. There is a reason you have people working for you: they are supposed to do work you don't need to do. If you are stepping into every meeting, you're not allowing your people to add value because you're involved with everything. Worst, you will train their team to look to you for decisions.
2. You think that everyone who works for you is an underperformer. You could be one of the world's worst people ever at hiring employees. But that's unlikely. So if you think that everyone on your team is underperforming, the problem just might be with you and your standards. Here's the other angle - you could be right - because top performers won't work got a micro-manager for long and you'll be left with lower caliber employees that are happy to let you do the work.
3. You've forgotten the 70% rule--and replaced it with the 120% rule. I wrote a separate article on the topic of delegation where the simple rule is that if someone can do a job 70% as good as you can, you should delegate it because you get 70% of the output using almost none of your time. But a micro-manager won't delegate something unless the person is actually better than they are at the task--120% better--which means that nothing ever really gets delegated off your desk. Check out my other article on the secrets great CEOs use to delegate tasks.
4. You're copied on every email. Great CEOS actively look to be cut back or even eliminate the number of emails they get. When they do get an email, they want it to be important enough--something below the water line--where they need to act on something. Poor CEOs, on the other hand, want to be copied on everything. They might say: "Just copy me on that." While that might seem innocuous, it sends a clear message that you're looking over everyone's shoulders--which breeds insecurity and inaction.
5. You Make Every Decision and Solve Every Problem. Great managers are great problem solvers and it really does feel good when someone comes to you with a problem or a decision and they leave with a solution. But that is a fatal flaw as a leader that doesn't build organizational muscle to make decisions on their own. I used to send people away if I thought they could solve a problem without my help. If they came back a few times, after having tried - then I'd help them.
6. You're working 80 hours a week. Let's be honest, if you're doing any of the things I have already mentioned--constantly checking email, attending meetings, and peeking over the shoulders of your people--that adds up to a ton of work. And this adds up to an all-too-common mistake, especially among young CEOs who equate activity with progress. What Great CEOs understand is that they need to spend most if not all of their time focused on the key constraint inside their business--not simply on keeping busy.
So if after reading this list you think you might be a micro-manager, it's OK - here's your sign. And now it's time to change and refocus on what's truly important inside your business.
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