By Jim Wong, CPA | May 19, 2014

Micromanagement: The Nemesis of Business Growth

I recently read an interview in the New York Times with Carl Galioto, Managing Principal of a New York architecture and engineering firm. Galioto talks about some of the inspirations in his life and career, and what led him to become a good leader. One of the influences he talks about is his father, a man who was shaped by his time in the military. A man who inspected his son’s sock drawer carefully, and always walked the perimeter of the house after his son had mowed the lawn or shoveled snow off the walkways, just to make sure the job had been executed perfectly.

Because you have high standards.

Galioto talks about how his father had instilled in him the importance of a job well done, but he also spoke of his predisposition early in his career to micromanage—a tendency to tell people not just what the results should be, but exactly how to get the job done.

It got me thinking about how easy it can be for leaders to micromanage. After all, the reason many people make it to a director role, whether you’re working in finance, accounting, IT or any other type of job, is because they have high standards. So, when work from your team comes in that’s not perfect–especially in the world of finance where small errors can have disastrous results–the knee–jerk response is to tighten down controls and processes in order to make sure everything is done exactly as you would do it.

The real costs of disengagement

But, too much micromanagement can lead to unhappy employees. In fact, micromanagement is one of the most commonly–cited causes of workplace discontent. And, the discontent caused by micromanagement can be costly. An article from HR C–Suite states, “Micromanagers cost organizations money as higher–paid supervisors expend effort on decisions and tasks that lower–paid employees could handle.”

As the author of the HR C–Suite article states, “Micromanagement stifles employee decision–making and gives employees the sense their manager doesn’t trust them.”

Solutions to the micromanagement problem

So, what is a leader with high standards to do to assure goals are met, processes are followed, and that all of this happens without resorting to micromanagement? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Hire the right people. This is the number one recommendation in an article on micromanagement. “It’s much easier to create a culture of accountability with accountable people.” Screen carefully, get help when you need it, and don’t make a hire if you’re not sure. The right employee is out there, and when you get the right person on your team, you won’t need to micromanage.
  2. Delegate effectively. Delegation will not only help your team members feel empowered to do their best, it will also free you up for the important tasks that only you are qualified to do. It’s more efficient, and it gives your people a sense of ownership.
  3. Think structure, not micromanagement. A recent Fast Company article, claims that “micromanagement” isn’t a dirty word at all, not if you’re doing it right. According to the article’s author’s, David and Lorrie Goldsmith, “Effective micromanagement through setting structure, developing strategy and plans, creating reliable systems for others, and teaching people how to be independent thinkers can actually empower others to do their jobs with little involvement from you at all. Yet truthfully, they are being micromanaged; they just don’t feel it, because you’re not in their faces.”


What are your thoughts on micromanagement in the finance, accounting, and IT profession? Leave a comment on our Facebook page!

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