In our work, we frequently see owner-advisors employing strategies or behaviors that unintentionally reduce profits, dampen firm growth, and/or diminish the quality of their client services. I was reminded of this recently while working with a new client. Probably the most counterproductive thing that firm owners do is to micromanage their employees. It’s a surefire way to minimize all that leverage that employees were hired to provide in the first place.
In case you skipped business school and have never picked up a management book, in, say, the past 20 years, “micromanaging” isn’t a specialty for computer chip manufacturers: It’s when a “boss” or manager monitors his or her employees a little too closely or provides a wee bit too much “direction” about how certain tasks should be done. That’s not to say employees don’t need to be shown how to do their jobs: We strongly believe in employee “preparation” and training (Preparation is the first of the “Ps” in our P4 Program). But, we’ve found that to get the best results from employees, as much as 90% of preparation needs to be done on the front end—not when employees are doing the jobs they are being paid to do.
As you might imagine, micromanaging varies from industry to industry, but in advisory firms, it usually takes the form of specifying exactly how employees are to perform their jobs, down to the smallest detail; frequently monitoring their progress while they are trying to get the job done; offering unhelpful and all-too-often conflicting instructions throughout the job; failing to listen to employees’ questions or concerns about a task; expecting employees to approach each task the way the manager would; or closely monitoring when employees come in to the office and when they go home.
If you’re like most owner-advisors, you’re probably asking: what’s wrong with those things? Without going into great detail, the short answer is that each of those mistakes (and many more) clearly communicates to employees that you don’t have any faith in their ability to do their jobs, and that you don’t trust them to do a good job. This, of course, is exactly wrong message. If you sat down and made out a list of the things it would be bad to communicate to your employees, these two would be right at the top.