Micromanagement: Do not let it happen to you

By: James Cassel
October 18, 2015


News flash: If your team members are accusing you of micromanagement, they are probably right. You are probably doing them, your company, and yourself more harm than good.

Senior-level micromanagement is as common as it is destructive to companies on so many levels. I was accused of micromanagement at one point. While I, of course, like most other culprits, did not believe this accusation at first, I quickly realized that I had to get better at delegating. Thankfully, because I worked with the right people, they embraced responsibility and exceeded my expectations.

Why is micromanagement an unnecessary evil? It hurts company morale and sends a message that you do not believe in your people’s judgment or consider them capable of doing their jobs. It usually is more a reflection of your insecurity and fear than an indication of your team’s capabilities. Micromanagement deflates people, takes away their power and inspiration to grow, motivates them to start looking for more rewarding employment elsewhere, prevents your senior people from focusing on the more strategic higher level work they should be doing, and the list goes on.

As a middle-market business owner, you must escape this common trap. Your role is to be a strong leader who sets policy, provides guidance, inspires and motivates, and creates a framework for growth so that your company can function — with or without you — like a well-oiled machine. You should be able to take a vacation without worrying your company will collapse while you are away.

If you are confident that your people cannot work independently, then they are either the wrong people, in the wrong positions, or probably should not be part of your company and should be replaced. It is a serious mistake to have people in positions where they cannot perform and excel. This is damaging for everyone involved, including your company and your clients or customers.

How do you create a framework for success? This requires building your management team while grooming several people for your senior-level positions. Larger companies do this, and middle-market businesses should more.

You do not want to have a company where your senior people are micromanaging or going around middle managers to your junior people and telling them what to do. While there are situations where this must take place, this practice should be the exception rather than the rule.

Along the way, when your colleagues make decisions or commitments, you have to be careful but you have to support them. Some of the people I work with have made decisions I would not have made, but once they made them, I supported their decisions so as not to undercut their authority. I have learned the vast majority of the time it is not the end of the world when someone makes a decision that differs from what I would have made. There is more than one right way to do things. On more than one occasion, their way has been just as good as or better than mine, and I have learned from my team. This is how it should be.

Clearly, if your people are making decisions that do not have positive outcomes, this issue must be evaluated and rectified. The key is that you must keep an open line of communication and establish different ways to monitor what your people are doing. You can set up a dashboard, but you do not want to be on top of them every minute because they need the space — and self-confidence — to do their jobs. You do not want to drive your people crazy. You would be surprised how often I hear this is going on.

To succeed, people must have well-defined roles and an accurate understanding of the nature of their work and what is expected of them. When they are given tasks, they must have the information they need so they can meet your expectations. They must be trained, mentored and motivated. They must know they can ask questions and get help when they need it. The right people will thrive in this environment.

Trust me, I know it can be difficult for middle-market business owners to let go and delegate. But you cannot be a control freak or you will limit your chances of growth and success. So after you have empowered your team to do their jobs, your job is to empower yourself to let go.

James Cassel is co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC, an investment-banking firm with headquarters in Miami that works with middle-market companies. He may be reached via email at jcassel@casselsalpeter.com or via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamesscassel. His website is: www.casselsalpeter.com