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Leadership Responsibility

Own It: The Line Between Micromanaging and Losing Sight of what’s important

  Leaders make tough decisions every day.  Amongst those is what to worry about and what to leave to others.    

In other posts (What Does Engagement Have to do with Profit and Employee Performance Management), we’ve talked about enabling your team members to do more with job descriptions and goal setting.  Leaders still have a role in oversight, management, and above all support.  This post talks about the accountability of leadership. 

Micromanaging is often public enemy #1 to growth.  But where is the line drawn between micromanaging and practicing proper leadership?  And what about the line between enabling a team to perform but losing leadership responsibility?  Along the line of employee performance management, there exist sweet spots at every juncture. 


Leadership sweet spots diagram

Signs That You’re a Micromanager by Harvard Business Review: “The problem with micromanagers is that they apply the same level of intensity, scrutiny and in-your-face approach to every task, whether warranted or not.”

Read the full article here.

Tips for reaching the sweet spots

Rely on the right people.  Trust people to manage others, make big decisions, and report back to you what is important.  You shouldn’t be a part of every meeting or every decision.  And you likely aren’t better at performing the specific accountabilities than those you manage.  But you must rely on people to make excellent judgment calls on whether to inform you or not.  Keep the lines of communication open with these folks above all else.


Create fail safes.  For extremely important areas or decisions create a policy.  For example, “for purchases over $5000 present to the board for approval” or “when interviewing new staff after the first interview and references are called bring in a third party”. 


Read and understand reports.  If you hire a professional accountant to handle your financials, you must ask questions and review reports until you understand.  Basic knowledge of what a professional is doing for you must be gained and they should be able to translate it for you.  Always ask yourself, can I explain the story behind this data?  If not, inquire.  One of the most complained about thingS for specialists is a client who pays attention at the last minute and wants everything done a different way.  Your participation is required.


Remember the big picture.  Some team members will have very detail-oriented jobs.  Others will touch several areas of the organization.  But often, the owner or manager closest to the top is the only one who has enough information about everything that is happening to piece together the big picture.  Especially when having conversations and brainstorming in the details, take a step back and consider what big picture components need to be considered.  Remind others and share that insight. 


Make decisions.  Don’t flip flop.  If you ask different people the exact same question you may very rarely get the same answer.  Sometimes this provides some great insight.  But at some point, you must decide what opinion you support and where you want to go.  An example: you have a new logo to create.  You ask a graphic designer and a branding consultant for feedback on a new design.  You don’t really agree with them so you ask someone else.  Three different opinions and all of them have merit.  There is a time where you must have faith and trust your advisors.


When navigating the sweet spots…

  • Are you meeting the standard that is required of your position? If there aren’t any, start defining them.
  • Are there areas that you are responsible for that you just trust others to do but have no understanding?  Start learning.  You don’t have to know how to do it yourself, but you must understand how to read reports. 
  • Are you leading your team to the best of their potential?
  • Are your team members using their strengths to make big progress without you?
  • Are you considering, and bringing to light, big picture items that help team members perform their role in alignment with group objectives?

Answering no to any of these questions isn’t a failure.  It’s a recognized opportunity.


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