Volume 1 / Issue 6 / June 6, 2016
The devastation of micromanagement.
Here’s a solid message to re-read since it holds the keys that can help your value-adders to achieve more and do it with desire. This is yet another opportunity to learn from a leader who has led his organization for many years and is willing to share. Many of you will know him as Jim Semple who is now retired from Brandt Engineering in Saskatchewan and living in Penticton.
"Don't let anything slip through the cracks."
"The devil is in the details."
"Don't let the monkeys run the zoo."
There is a grain of wisdom in each of these adages that are so often used to justify a high level of control in the workplace. The problem is that the grain is floating on a bed of quicksand. Micromanaged people do not perform well. They are more concerned with avoiding trouble for themselves than with scoring points for their organization. They have seen what happens to their peers when mistakes are made, so they play it safe.
Micromanagement communicates a lack of trust. It nurtures self-doubt among staff, stifling creativity and initiative in the people it is intended to help. Micromanagement creates an environment where people are on guard. They won't try anything new or challenge convention for fear of negative consequences. Their focus is not on doing their best work but on not doing anything wrong. While the micromanager thinks he is building an organized and structured department, in fact he is creating a repressive work environment. It is not likely to produce breakthroughs, nor will it ever inspire World Class performance.
Psychology explains the reasons why. People perform according to our opinion of them. Whether we think they are superstars or bums, they won't disappoint. It's a pack animal phenomenon. If we believe a worker is #2 in the pack, he will perform accordingly. If he believes that we doubt his competence he will doubt his abilities as well. The social mirror shapes his identity. Micromanagers cause people to question their worth and that is reflected in their job performance.
Fortunately, the converse is true. When people are given a reputation to live up to they work hard to live up to those expectations. Allowing staff to think for themselves and try new things, and then letting them know you have confidence in their ability and judgment, spurs them on to explore new limits. They feel safe taking chances. They think and act like owners. They produce superior results. Companies like WL Gore, Home Depot, Southwest Airlines, WestJet and The Container Store have left their competitors in the dust by making accountability and empowerment of staff the fabric of their workplace culture. They know that management cannot be everywhere at all times to make every decision, and they understand that those on the front lines are better informed to make on the spot decisions. For example, WestJet's 12,000 employees know that decisions they make in the interest of pleasing passengers do not have to be approved by head office, or even by their manager. The staff knows that management has their back even when the decisions they make costs the company money. WestJet has left the devastating practice of micromanagement to their competitors and are the better for it. According to a November 15, 2015 Globe and Mail article, WestJet has never lost money and continues to increase market share while virtually every other airline is struggling to stay alive. Their management attributes their success to "a culture of caring and empowerment and engagement ... a collaborative style ...that involves people early on in decisions that affect them."
Micromanagement is only one step away from killing the goose that lays golden eggs. Micromanaged employees feel confined and strangled, struggling for air. They feel restricted in what they can and cannot do. The future is not theirs to create. They do not feel they can become all they can be.
A shift to delegation and empowerment can breathe fresh air into what was a micromanaged organization. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, "The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with.”
We sincerely thank Jim for enabling us to share this with you. It was first posted on his Blog on February 7, 2016. To contact Jim, link to: jimsemple.wordpress.com