As the founder of a startup, particularly a first-time founder, control becomes an addiction. You feel like the only way to succeed is to take control of every single aspect of your business. And while you need to have a say in the big decisions, it's important to know when to let go.
The dangers of micromanagement are far reaching. Not only does micromanagement impact your own daily habits and routines, but it also has a negative impact on your business and employees.
“To be happy, people need to feel in control of their own destiny: competent, independent and connected,” writes Michael Pryor, CEO of Trello. “Micromanagement robs employees of the personal satisfaction that comes from individual effort and self-direction.” In other words, micromanagement leads to overwhelmed employees who aren’t quite sure what to do next.
When employees feel stifled and unhappy, they’re likely to look elsewhere for a new job. This leads to high turnover rates, which slow down productivity, increase expenses and create uncertainty.
If you’re focused on micromanaging small aspects of your startup, then you’re no longer looking at the important big-picture elements. This ultimately hampers growth and leads to missed opportunities that your business should be using to move in the right direction.
The key is to transition from a micromanager to a macromanager, but most entrepreneurs have trouble letting go. It’s like teaching your child how to ride a bike for the first time. Even though you know there comes a time when they have to try on their own, you have trouble letting go. After all, there’s always the possibility that they could fall or get hurt.
Well, the same fears and risks exist in the startup world. This doesn’t mean you can hang on and micromanage forever, though. Eventually, the training wheels must come off and you have to let go. Here are five practical tips to help you conquer this challenge:
1. Hire the right people.
It all starts with hiring the right people. When you trust the employees you have, you’re willing to give them responsibilities. On the other hand, if you don’t feel like your employees are capable of fulfilling the duties you put before them, then there’s going to be a natural tendency to micromanage. The moral of the story is: Do your research and hire the right people.
2. Establish procedures.
Every core task your startup faces should have an established procedure in place. This prevents people from standing around asking, “Now what?” For best results, create these procedures with the help of your employees.
By giving them input, you can ensure they’re comfortable with what’s happening. Then, once the procedure is established, put it in writing for everyone to see. You should only be brought in when the procedure is exhausted and a solution doesn’t exist. At OptinMonster, we have step-by-step written procedures or checklists for every task , from the simple ones such as publishing a blog article, to the more complex ones such as launching a new app feature.
Related: How to Avoid Micromanaging
3. Delegate little by little.
Moving from full-on micromanagement to minimal involvement can be tough on everyone. Even if it’s the best move, there will be some natural delays when the business switches from one way of doing things to another. In order to minimize this transition period, start delegating tasks little by little. By slowly stepping back -- as opposed to handing off responsibilities and completely removing yourself -- you can generate much better results.
4. Shut the door.
While this initially sounds like it goes against everything else people say about being a good leader, there’s a point to it. Periodically closing your office door, taking an extended lunch break or simply turning off your Slack chat forces your employees to operate without you. Something changes when they realize that they can’t always come to you and ask for help. They suddenly begin taking more action and initiative.
5. Give employees a stake in ownership.
Want employees to act like they own the company? Try giving them a stake in the company. By giving startup employees an opportunity to own shares of the company, you encourage them to work harder and make smarter decisions. This allows employees to feel more like a part of the organization, as opposed to people merely working for the organization.
When it comes to entrepreneurship, there are two basic challenges: ideation and execution. For some, ideation comes naturally. If you fall into this category, then you have no trouble brainstorming ideas for new products and services. However, it’s possible that you struggle with execution -- or building a business and managing employees.
In many cases, those who struggle with managing employees often resort to micromanagement in order to build an illusion of having everything under control. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true. When you focus too much on other people, you’re unable to focus on your role as founder and the many important responsibilities that go along with that title.