How to Get More From Your Team. Stop Micromanaging!

Micromanagement is the results killer! Yes, you’ve read that right!

Micromanagement can lead to subpar results, frustration and an unsatisfactory collaboration. This is especially true when it comes to experienced talent.

So if that’s the case, why do some leaders have a need to micromanage? Most of the time this happens in remote work environments. Micromanagement can come from lack of control over what each of the team members is doing.

I have been leading remote teams and building systems and processes for them since 2009. In my experience, it is always much easier to obtain the results you aim for when the team is in alignment:

  • Everyone is clear on the mission
  • Expectations are set and clear
  • Parameters for the work are defined and communicated
  • There is a high level of trust between management and the teams

How to create a culture of accountability and ownership?

Building company culture around accountability and ownership leads to effective work. Team members know exactly who is doing what and when, and are also clear on the how and most important, on the why.

I can tell you, creating and maintaining a healthy organizational culture is not easy. At the same time, it’s for sure not impossible. Also, it is definitely worth the time that you as a leader and your team members invest in this.

Here are a few things I learned from my experience. These will help you to improve accountability and ownership for your team:

  • The onboarding process is a very important one, yet it often gets overlooked. This is when you can make the difference in establishing a good collaboration with the new hire. This is the best time to make sure:
    • Expectations are very crystal clear and acknowledged by the new team member
    • The same applies for KPIs and other success criteria specific for the job.
    • You take the time to have a review together or ensure the direct manager of the new team member does it.
  • Systems and structures are key to a team’s efficiency. They support visibility into what each team member is working on. They must be built from the early stages of the business.

  • Project management tools play an important role in automating systems and structures. They must be set to allow team members to access relevant projects for their role.
  • Decide on a go to person for dealing with bottlenecks as well as access to resources. Communicate the name to the team.
  • Put in place transparent reporting structures. They are key for accountability.

Hire world class talent and let them do their magic 

To avoid micromanagement work with people that you trust enough. Let them do their job without interfering. Hire the best specialists in their area of expertise. Allow them to work their magic for the benefit of your company.

You may be the final decision maker on hiring. Yet I recommend to involve relevant employees in this process. Listen to them and consider their opinion. After all, they are the ones that will work with the new hire.

To grow your business and yourself as a leader surround yourself with people who are better than you. This can be uncomfortable, I know. I encourage you to learn from these people. Also, invest them with decision making authority in their area of expertise. It will free up valuable time to spend working on the business.

Perform a culture fit test during the hiring process

Define your company culture before considering expanding your team.

I recommend as a best practice to decide on 3 to 7 core values that you attribute to your company. They are all equally important and I know you must have favourites. Rank them in the order of preference. Make sure that whom you hire perfectly exemplifies at least your top 1-3 company core values.

Why are core values so important?

  • Because skills are many times easier to learn than changing values.
  • Core values can be further on used to both hire and fire people.

How can you test for core values?

  • During the hiring process, prepare and ask a series of situational questions.
  • Based on the answers, determine if they are a good culture fit.
  • Ask the same question in different ways and focus on past experience. Do not ask general questions, e.g.: Please tell me about a time when you…

Micromanaging is demotivating 

It sounds harsh, I know, but it’s the truth.

Even if the intentions behind micromanagement are good, in practice they send the wrong message and basically say “I don’t trust you enough!”. As a specialist, this is one of the most demotivating aspects. It communicates that the leaders of the company don’t trust them and their work.

Most employees find their work creative, even in technical areas of expertise. It might sound surprising but it is true. Micromanagement puts hard limits on the creativity of these talented people. It dictates the what (expected result) and the how (method, steps, process).

Flexible schedule? Yes! Let your people work whenever they feel most productive

Have you ever thought about where does the 9-5 work schedule comes from? Let me take you back almost 100 years ago. In September 1926, Henry Ford first announced the 9-5, 5-day work week schedule.

Many things have changed in the way people work in the past 100 years. Recent years came with shifts in how people work. Remote work is now adopted by more and more companies. It is the new normal.

One symptom of micromanagement is having your team work on a fixed schedule. I am not talking about cases when there is a good reason, for example:

  • Customer support team covering specific time zones
  • CFO that needs to call banks in a certain country

What are the benefits of flexibility when it comes to work schedules?

  • If you ask 10 people when they are most productive and creative they will have 10 different answers.
  • You can benefit more from effective work than from controlling everyone’s schedules.
  • Async communication is more efficient for remote companies. People tend to spend less time in useless meetings.

I get the fact that you don’t want your teams to work at different hours. There may still be a need for quick confirmations or even quick online meetings.

In my experience, what works is to set “office hours” for your company. This can be an interval of 2-3 hours per day that works best for all your teams to be online. This approach works even when your teams are distributed across several continents.

I need advice on where to start

Hours don’t count, results do 

You are the leader of a remote company. Your company offers flexible work hours and collaboration agreements. How do you track the volume of work? You have a few options:

  • At company level
  • Project based
  • Per team
  • Per team member
  • Deliverable based
  • Per hour

You can choose one or more options, there is no perfect formula. What is more important is to understand the nature of your teams’ jobs. This is how you choose the best option.

Regardless of your choice, hours tracked is a weak comparison criteria. Here is why:

  • Junior, lower cost talent may do a particular job in 120 hours
  • Experienced talent, with higher expectations, will do the same job in 60 hours

Yes, I have seen this kind of difference. At the end of the day you need to determine what option generates better results.

Create visibility on the mission and the roadmap

Teams work toward meeting goals if they are aligned with the mission and clear on the roadmap. This is a fact. Here is why this happens:

  • The mission gets the team’s buy-in on the bigger picture. Why you’re doing what you’re doing. This is essential if you want to attract like minded, culture fit people.
  • The roadmap creates visibility on the project’s milestones. It also defines the team’s role in completing the milestones. Experienced specialists are more likely to commit to projects with a clear roadmap.

As a leader, you aim to build a committed team of specialists. You do not want to surround yourself with demotivated teams looking for a job and nothing more. The only way to do this is to consistently and clearly share the mission and the roadmap.

Build a specific scorecard for each role

Individual scorecards are a great way to introduce clarity for each role. They also take the pulse of every team member’s performance on a regular basis. Based on the nature of each KPI, they can be tracked on a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly basis.

KPIs must be specific to the role. Here is what I mean by this:

  • A sales person will look at number of demo calls.
  • A marketing manager will track the number of inbound leads.
  • There is no generic list of KPIs that works for everyone in the company.

KPIs must be set in agreement with each team member. Their buy-in is essential in order for this to generate results.

Don’t forget to celebrate your team’s achievements 

One of our needs as humans is to feel we are valued. You can meet this need of your employees by celebrating them when they achieve a milestone. By doing so you are showing them that you value their input and their presence on the team. Often, this can go much further than a small bonus.

An incentive structure is a great thing to have in place. You can offer bonuses or commissions for excellent performance. However it may not be realistic to compensate team members each time they achieve a milestone.

Yet, it is great practice to acknowledge people for their results and achievements. This can take the form of a small celebration during the weekly all hands on deck meeting.

In my experience, teams where leaders have the habit to acknowledge their people regularly have lower turnover.

Conclusions on micromanagement

If hope it is clear by now that micromanagement gives you a false sense of control over your team. This comes with countless downsides.

The solution is to find trustworthy people to work with.

Provide them with clarity on the mission and roadmap.

Acknowledge them for good work.

Create a transparent work environment.

They will produce the results you are looking for.

I really need help with this!

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