photo of consultant Angie Herbers

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.

While working with a new client, I was reminded that probably the most counter-productive thing that firm owners do is to micromanage their employees. It’s a surefire way to minimize all the help employees can provide in advancing firm growth.

Micromanaging comes in various forms, 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 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;
  • Closely monitoring when employees log on and off their computers in the virtual environment we live.

What’s wrong with doing these things?

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 you want to send to the people you have decided to employ.

With that, here are five ways to decrease micro-management in your firm:

1. Think about how employees’ jobs fits into the future growth of your firm.

Knowing the bigger picture helps you and the employee keep your sights on the overall contribution of their skills and talents to the firm.

This may sound obvious, especially in a small firm, but I’ve known employees who worked at their jobs for years without realizing how important they are to the firm, or how all their  efforts fit together for the success of the firm.

The benefits far outweigh the time and effort of explaining everyone’s role in the firm, and how each contributes to high-quality service for each client.

2. How do you define success in the role your employees play?

“Detail oriented” is the most common answer when we ask our clients. But for employees to do a great job, they have to know what a “great job” means.

Again, this isn’t something owners should leave up to employees to figure out for themselves. They aren’t mind readers.

When owners tell their employees exactly what success means to them in the position the employees hold, they greatly increase the chances of seeing it. And, if being detailed oriented is the most important thing to you, tell your employees.

3. Create space for employees to figure out how to be successful at their jobs.

Many owner/advisors still believe they are “the boss” instead of the trainer. They believe employees should do it their way and walk uphill both ways to do it.

Everybody has different strengths and weaknesses; different talents and abilities. The goal should be for each employee to perform at a high level.

To do that, they’ll have to use their abilities and work around their weaknesses. Bosses who force employees to work one way, usually prevent this from happening.

4. It’s important, especially in these times, to let employees do their jobs their way.

For one thing, their skills and abilities undoubtedly are different than the owner-advisors: to maximize their contribution, they’ll need to figure out how to apply their skills to their job.

Let them. And let them make mistakes along the way. It’s the only way to learn their job.

5. It’s key to focus on each employee’s results, rather than how or when they got the job done.

Reviewing the finished product tells them their work is important, and constructive guidance about how to do it better tells them that you believe they can.

If you give people the autonomy to do their jobs — and the training to succeed — you’ll find they are more motivated, more productive and more innovative.

As we have seen throughout the pandemic, people find ways to do their jobs and contribute to the success of a firm that their owner-advisor would never have thought of.

If firm leaders continue to micro-manage, they’ll end up doing most of their employees’ jobs for them — and not maximizing their own contribution to the success of their firm, thus never fully growing.