To Delegate or Micromanage?

I see many business owners or business leaders who find it hard achieving a balance between micromanaging everything and delegating effectively. I many times see alot of extremes. I see business owners wanting to be in control of everything or else they just put their people at the deep end, with little or no support.

Experience has taught me that the most effective and scalable ways of helping team members is by helping them navigate challenges.

However, to shift from micromanaging to delegating effectively, business owners and business leaders need to make a few key mental shifts. Below are some of these mental shifts that business owners and leaders would need to undertake:

  • Face your fears directly: The first step is understanding what beliefs underpin your current behaviour. Where does your instinct to control everything come from? Do you worry your employees will crumble under pressure and, as a result, make you look bad? Do you believe that their wrong decisions will compromise your business? Are you concerned that your value to your team depends on your ability to control all aspects of their work? Challenge yourself to figure out what would need to be true in order for you to let go of underlying reason or reasons. Additionally, ask yourself how your current approach might be harming your team. Many times you will understand that the route cause is ingrained in the fear of losing control and in the need to mitigate such fear my micromanaging everything.
  • Assume your employees can solve the problem: By empowering your employees to solve their own problems, you can demonstrate your trust and confidence in the team’s abilities. For example, when people raise a challenge, they often don’t need help finding the solution — they either have one already or can come up with one by talking the challenge through with a trusted person. You can turn yourself into that person to improve your leadership effectiveness and avoid offering solutions too quickly. Doing so also encourages team members to think independently and come up with creative solutions to issues. To help them identify workable solutions and pick the right course of action, consider asking, “What options do you have?”
  • Embrace the cost of short-term mistakes for long-term gains: Short-term mistakes provide learning experiences and opportunities; they can uncover weaknesses, areas of opportunity, and improvement. Allowing your team to “fail” (and learn) independently is a faster path to growth and long-term success than ensuring the short-term outcomes are well controlled.Many managers, business leaders and business owners operate under the false notion that their objective is to ensure a good outcome for every situation, large or small. Many times this means that such business leaders fail to make a distinction between what is critical and what is not. I feel it is important for business leaders to get clear on what the truly high-stakes decisions are and help themselves and their teams build capabilities around recovering from small setbacks or missteps. This perspective allows business owners and business leaders to let go of many decisions, which in turn gives them more time to coach emerging leaders on the team and for higher-level strategic thinking.
  • Lean more on your leadership strengths: As businesses grow it because virtually impossible for any business owner to keep tabs on all that is happening in their business. Moreover, their functional knowledge becomes less relevant as leadership skills take priority. Many business owners and leaders struggle with this identity shift. They worry that if they’re not personally on top of all the details, they’ll be perceived as ineffective when in fact the opposite is true.
  • Empower your team: Once you’ve adjusted your mindset about how you support your employees, you can start to take action. Whether the issue is technical or interpersonal, your job is to help your team develop options for handling the situation now and in the future. When an employee brings up a challenge, ask what kind of support would be helpful, but avoid putting yourself at the center of the challenge. Sometimes information and context gaps need to be closed, and the solution can be as simple as directing your team member to the right person to talk to. That’s not to say that you should never play a role in navigating challenges; in fact, business owners or leaders are often better positioned to see the greater forces creating the challenge. If such a challenge is best addressed at a higher level in the organisation, business leaders must work to then find solutions at a higher level.

Transitioning from protecting employees or micromanaging everything, to actually supporting team members is a transformational experience. It actually helps you re-frame the value you bring to the organisation as a business leader or business owners. It help you to shift from doing to coaching and focusing on creating the right team environment and processes instead of concentrating solely on individual outcomes. Getting out of the middle makes space for the perspective needed to see organisational context more clearly and spend the requisite energy on addressing systems-level challenges. It reduces the instances when business owners turn back to me and tell me “I have no time to think about business strategy”.

At EMCS, we have developed the Business Reality Check service that would enable businesses to understand if the predominant culture on any family business or SME is based on micromanaging or empowerment. We then help businesses understand the effects of such culture and how to bring about the necessary change. Ultimately business owners need to decide if they want their business to be remain completely dependent on them or to grow beyond that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s