How to cure yourself of micromanaging

I’m working with an individual who was hired eight months ago into an office management role for a small company that has been in business 20 years. She is a young, bright individual bringing a management background and new ideas to an aging business that is experiencing difficulty keeping up with the times.Asked to learn the business by starting as a customer service representative, she was told she would gradually be given management duties. Unfortunately, she sees no end in sight to her performing the customer service role. The owners say they can’t afford to hire a customer service rep, and they need her to stay where she is to keep the customers happy, all the while acknowledging they want to give her more responsibility.She states the owners are taxed to the max with work, but say they will continue to do her management role “until we get more cash flow and can hire a CSR.”On top of being upset that she is not doing what she was hired to, this individual is frustrated at the inefficiencies in the office. As she says, “If I was just allowed to manage the office, there would be completely new and efficient work flow processes and they (her bosses) would free themselves up to do their jobs instead of mine!”She feels it isn’t her they don’t trust — they just aren’t accustomed to delegating the tasks they have been doing for so long.I’m giving this individual the benefit of the doubt that she could indeed add value to the business work process, so it seems counter-intuitive to not let her do the job she was hired for.Based on what I’ve been told, these business owners seem to be having trouble letting go of micromanaging everything, teetering on the edge of surviving, perhaps financially and emotionally.Micromanagement tends to cause restriction, not expansion. Doug Rauch of Trader Joe’s recently shared in a Harvard Business Review article, “Failing Chronicles,” his own brush with micromanaging employees while bringing the company from the West Coast to the East.He wrote: “A year or so in, they’d gotten my message just fine. The culture was instilled, the philosophy bought into. Only I didn’t see it. In my zeal to control everything, I failed to notice that it was time to take off the training wheels and let the new staff members grow into their roles. I kept micromanaging. The effect was stifling, especially on our buyers, the heart of our organization. I had always said that a buying team that doesn’t make mistakes isn’t worth a damn, yet I wasn’t letting them make their own mistakes. They started to be afraid to take chances. It was beginning to affect the business.”He added: “As I worked on letting go, I came to see micromanaging as a failure to let others shine or grow.”Involved but not intrudingHow can you be involved without intruding on the work employees are doing? • Asset-minded: Think of employees as assets with their own set of skills and knowledge that could produce the same or better results than intended. • Practice listening: Listen for new ideas and approaches to a job or project. • Delegate: Participate in the planning of the why, who, how to, and when, and then step back and let employees do their job. • Act as a coach: Coaches don’t do the jobs of their players. They strategize and then offer advice, direction or praise. • Observe: Observe your team, and step in only when they are off track. • Assess: Evaluate goals at varying intervals, and always at the end of a project, cycle, etc. If mistakes were made, discuss what was learned and make adjustments. If successes occurred, recognize individuals and teams aptly. • Obtain feedback: At the end of the project or cycle, ask your employees how you are doing. Ask them if they felt micromanaged. Find out if perhaps you were too hands-off. Let them give you constructive feedback on your involvement. • Adapt your management style: Take what you learned from the above process and make any appropriate changes to your way of managing. If you find it difficult to engage in this process or are not sure what steps to make for growth or change, consider working with an objective professional, such as a business coach.Luckily, there are many successful businesspeople who have been willing to humble themselves and share their “failure” stories around having been micromanagers. Learning to let go is not an easy task, but can be done. Hopefully, the owners who have invested in the individual I’m working with will heed Rauch’s advice and learn from his mistakes about when to hold on and when to let go and let others shineHeidi Page, owner of evolve Counseling & Training LLC and co-owner of Platinum Principle Training & Development LLC, can be reached at 603-716-1282 or