April 19, 2018

Small Biz Advice


"As a manager the important thing is not what happens when you are there, but what happens when you are not there." ~ Ken Blanchard

Jerry Osteryoung | 4/9/2012

When I talk to employees about their managers or bosses, the number one complaint I hear is that they micromanage. Micromanaging damages morale and productivity because it belittles staff, making them feel like they are not valued and are not contributing to the organization.

I certainly do not think that anyone goes out of their way to be a micromanager. It is simply a habit the individual developed at one time and now carries forward because it worked once before. But a micromanager will never become a great leader because they do not empower their staff.

Jerry Osteryoung
Jerry Osteryoung

What separates a great manager from a micromanager is their ability to facilitate instead of control. A micromanager controls the work being done, whereas a great manager facilitates by supporting and empowering others to excel at the task at hand.

So how do you know if you are a micromanager? There are a few telltale signs. Firstly, do you resist delegating or take back projects before they are complete? Secondly, do you discourage others from making decisions without consulting you? And finally, do you start correcting small details in a project rather than looking at the big picture? If you do any of these things, you might be a micromanager.

Some micromanagers will say they have no choice but to operate this way if they want the work to get done, and when questioned further, most will admit they feel the staff does not have the necessary skills or motivation to do the job. This is the number one reason a person micromanages: they do not trust their employees' abilities and feel they have to step in to ensure the job gets done properly.

Sometimes this might be true. At one point or another, you may find the people you are working with do not have the necessary skills. If that is the case, however, the solution is not to micromanage. It is to replace the employees who are not performing at the level required.

It boils down to a simple question: if you are micromanaging, are your employees the problem or are you? If your employees are capable and you are still micromanaging, the problem is likely you, and you need to change if you want to become a more effective manager.

If you sense you are a micromanager but are not sure how to correct that, talk to your staff. Ask them what changes they would like to see in your management style. Then listen to what they say very carefully. Listening shows that you care about their thoughts and are willing to change.

Generally, your staff will say that you need to delegate more because when they are entrusted with additional responsibility, they feel their contributions really matter.

Letting go and empowering staff takes time and practice. After years of working with countless number of managers, I have found that in most cases, it takes a major incident to jump start the transformation process. Sometimes this catalyst is a crisis of some sort. For example, a manager who is not meeting their objectives fears losing their job. Their motivation is rooted in the knowledge that they must change in order to increase productivity and hold on to their position.

Another way to motivate someone to change their micromanaging ways is to address it in their performance appraisal. Their evaluation should take into account the manager's process, not just the overall output of the department. Managers who micromanage should receive low marks to promote change.

Now go out and find out if you are a micromanager. If you are, make a commitment to change for your sake, as well as for that of your employees and your company.

You can do this.

Go to Links Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here. Note: Articles older than 30 days require registration (it's quick and free).

Jerry Osteryoung is the Director of Outreach of The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at The Florida State University; The Jim Moran Professor Emeritus of Entrepreneurship; and Professor Emeritus of Finance. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book" is an bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at

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