Monday, December 20, 2010

Micromanagers - The Cancer of good morale and poison to exceptional effort

In my humble opinion, there is a disease loose in the world of business that is a Cancer to good morale and exceptional efforts - That poison is " Micromangement "

Defined as "
a manager who rather than giving general instructions on smaller tasks and then devoting his time to supervising larger concerns, the micromanager monitors and assesses every step of a business process and avoids delegation of decisions.

Micromanagers are usually irritated when a subordinate makes decisions without consulting them, even if the decisions are totally within the subordinate's level of authority

I worked for a couple of these and they were able to suck the oxygen right out of any room they entered.....Enclosed is a good Leadership lesson on how to avoid being one of these curmudgeons....Don't be that guy.

Micromanagers Miss Bull's-Eye
Dealing With Every Detail Robs Subordinates of the Freedom to Solve Problems.

Two years ago, Greg Cushard was leading eight or nine meetings a week at Rubicon Oil Co., the truck-refueling company he founded and runs. He would interrupt conversations among subordinates, identify mistakes and make even mundane decisions, he says.

"I acted like a quarterback ... more than a coach," Mr. Cushard says. He had little time to think about the business. Employees "stopped making suggestions because they were afraid they'd get shot down."

Prompted by advice from his top lieutenants and executive coach, Mr. Cushard resolved to stop micromanaging. Leadership experts say micromanagers -- from small-business owners to managers in large organizations -- share an unwillingness to trust subordinates; still, many can be successful, to a point.

Former President Jimmy Carter was known to personally review requests for White House tennis courts. Martha Stewart once described herself as a "maniacal micromanager" who had to "understand every part of the business to be able to maximize those businesses." Former Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Michael Eisner ordered stronger bulbs put in reading lights in Disney hotels.

The best managers help employees learn to work independently by giving them meaningful responsibilities, organizational coach Diane Foster says. "Who wants to be in a company where you are not allowed to think?"

Michael Hakkert, vice president of corporate marketing for Blue Coat Systems Inc., says he struggled with the urge to micromanage in his first supervisory job at Cisco Systems Inc. 10 years ago. Mr. Hakkert says he would act as an intermediary between subordinates and other Cisco employees instead of letting employees own their projects.

"It was very difficult to understand when to continue to roll up my sleeves and when to actually delegate," he recalls. A leadership-development class and mentor at Cisco helped Mr. Hakkert realize that good managers facilitate the work of their subordinates, whether or not they help create the final products.

Frontline workers often are best suited to identify problems and suggest creative solutions, says Ira Bryck, director of University of Massachusetts's Family Business Center in Hadley, Mass. But when conditioned to rely on a heavy-handed manager for guidance, employees become complacent, he says.

Managers should give employees goals and leave them to work out the details, Mr. Bryck says. They should resist the temptation to take control when subordinates make minor mistakes.

Some micromanagers need a push from others to break the habit. Mr. Bryck recalls the CEO of a small software company who asked him why employees didn't follow instructions. After interviewing employees, Mr. Bryck determined they resented the boss's heavy hand. He asked the employees to rewrite the CEO's job description to help him understand where his guidance wasn't necessary.

At Rubicon, the truck-refueling company, Mr. Cushard started leaving meetings after briefly setting the tone and agenda. He soon stopped attending some altogether, appointing others to lead in his place. Rubicon, Sacramento, Calif., has about 40 employees.

"When the CEO became a member of the meeting and not the center of the meeting, so much more got accomplished," says Tim Johnson, Rubicon's head of sales.

For example, Rubicon's accountants thrived when left to decide how to tackle the department's goals, Mr. Cushard says. They trimmed the average time to collect a payment to about 23 days, from 31 days.

"They did not want me there," Mr. Cushard says. "My presence hindered thinking."

But Rubicon's operations department initially "failed miserably because I had the wrong person" running the department, he says. The operations head purchased three more refueling trucks than the company needed -- for $175,000 each -- at a time when business was slowing. The trucks sat idle for months before they could be rotated into use.

Mr. Cushard ultimately fired the manager and split the operations department into two smaller groups that are easier to manage. "You instantly find out who's good and who's not by ... putting the ball in their court," he says.

Today, Rubicon employees take turns running meetings. Leaders periodically follow up with co-workers, creating more accountability within departments, Mr. Cushard says.

Mark Goulston, a Los Angeles-based management consultant, likes that approach. "It gives everyone the opportunity ... to feel what it's like to try to keep people on track," he says.

Mr. Cushard now attends three or four meetings a week; subordinates send updates from the rest. In his newfound spare time, Mr. Cushard launched a second company, a fuel clearinghouse that tracks oil prices.

As owners, "we think we know best, but we don't, not all of the time," he says. "I realized that it's not all about me."

Write to Cari Tuna at

Printed in The Wall Street Journal

No comments: