It can be hard for family business owners to not micromanage their employees. After all, they built the business and nurtured it for years! And both family-member and non-family-member managers can be prone to micromanaging as well, whether because they have strong financial and emotional ties to the business similar to the owner’s or they’re trying to gain the family’s approval and trust. But there comes a time when micromanaging can become a detriment to the employees and the company, harming morale and productivity. If your family business faces this situation, you need to address it.
Identify “bossy” bosses and “control freaks”
Because micromanagement may take different forms, it can be difficult to pinpoint. Some managers who continually put employees under the microscope quickly get a reputation as “bossy” or, worse, a “control freak.”
Although some employees may boldly complain that they’re being micromanaged, others may feel too uncomfortable to say anything negative. So it can be difficult to tell whether you or other supervisors are micromanaging.
In instances where there’s a problem with two or more employees, particularly in the same department, consider whether managers or employees are to blame. If employees voicing the complaints work well with other supervisors or if several staff members have the same issue, it should raise a flag that the problem lies with management.
Other hallmarks of micromanagement are the need to review and approve everything, frequently getting buried in details and wasting time on small issues (which can lead to procrastination on more important matters), and having a reputation for being difficult to work with.
Of course, in areas where attention to detail and accuracy are paramount (such as in financial management and reporting), managing employees closely is justified.
Shift to a leadership mindset
Putting a stop to micromanagement requires you to shift from a taskmaster mindset to a leadership one: Focus on developing business processes that empower employees to perform their jobs.
Also, give employees better tools, such as project guidance before they begin, and encourage them to create solutions to common problems. You also need to set priorities. Be selective about where you spend your time and energy. Concentrate on high-value, high-risk areas of your business that require your close attention and approval.
It’s critical that you step aside and give employees the chance to prove their skills and further develop their abilities by letting them do their own work and learn from their mistakes in lower risk areas. Also, free yourself from the responsibility of monitoring employees’ strengths so you have time to help them overcome weaknesses. And encourage employees to assume “ownership” of their responsibilities and account for their actions by tying their compensation and opportunities for promotion to performance goals.
Last, help employees feel comfortable by giving feedback and making suggestions. For instance, hold team-building meetings and one-on-one lunches to discuss work issues. If your staff is large enough, also consider doing an annual employee survey.
As a family business owner, it’s critical that you ensure your management team is effective. Among other things, this means eliminating any micromanaging that may be going on. This can be a challenge, but the payoff in terms of employee engagement and productivity can be well worth the effort.
Reach out to Holbrook & Manter for help with running your family business. We would be honored to work with you.