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Delegating: Balance Your Inner Micromanager

Micromanagement has become a dirty word. Being considered a micromanager by your colleagues, partners, or employees is never a good thing, at least to most people. Micromanagers are often perceived as narcissistic tactical managers dealing with trivialities, rather than strategic leaders who focus on the bigger picture. Not only that, micromanagement may also have a long-term negative effect on business performance; some say it negatively affects employees’ work satisfaction and might lead them to disengage and become apathetic to their job and responsibilities.

However, others say that there is no contradiction between micromanagement and successful strategic leadership. They argue that micromanagement is at the root of the business success of many companies. In fact, I decided to write about this subject after reading a blog post by Larry Popelka, who praises micromanagers. He suggests, and I agree, that even though many companies have great innovative ideas, only a few very successful companies are able to execute these ideas perfectly. Popelka takes this notion a step further and proposes that meticulous execution cannot be done without micromanagement. He mentions Apple’s Steve Jobs, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates as examples.

While Popelka brings up an interesting point, my opinion differs on the close relationship he attributes to successful execution and micromanagement. I believe it is all about balance. Sitting in an ivory tower and being completely detached from your team’s day-to-day operations is bad practice; however, “clipping their wings” and being overly involved is also negative. Your team members must feel trusted and have a sense of independence in order for them to be creative, committed, and engaged in their job. In addition, they should know that you are there to guide and lead when needed.

That is where delegating kicks in. Here are a few tips to consider:

First, know your strengths and remember that you hired professionals for a reason. Let your employees shine where they can, and utilize their “comparative advantage” to benefit your business. If you chop their wings by overseeing everything they do, you will not be able to reap the rewards of their expertise. Second, make sure your strategic and tactical goals are aligned and prioritized. Analyze which tasks demand your involvement, who is the right man or woman for each task, how much time and mental resources each task requires, and how the tasks should be divided among the team. Third, if you end up delegating a task that you can’t be involved in due to time constraints, give your team clear instructions, not leaving any loose ends.

Being a micromanager is not all bad. As I’ve said before, and just like in anything else in life, it’s all about balance.

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