What is the difference between a good boss and a terrible one? Quite often, it depends on whether they know how to balance delegation, supervision, and efficiency. But often, some CEOs get it wrong and head into micromanagement territory, making more work for themselves and exasperating their team. So, where is this fine line, and how can bosses ensure they stay on the right side of it?
In the management world, micromanagement is a term used to describe a style of management where a high-level manager will observe and control the work of those working for, with, or under them. While this might seem like standard management, micromanagement is considered to be negative, and the term carries heavy connotations. This is because it generally takes the concept of management too far and pressures employees through constant surveillance and intervention. It is deemed to demonstrate a lack of freedom for employees and management having little trust in those they work with.
It can be known by other terms such as control, obsession, or the paying of extreme attention to minor or small details. This approach is negative also because the focus is too much on small matters meaning the bigger picture is often missed.
For example, a CEO may give highly detailed and comprehensive instructions on multiple minor matters rather than focussing on the more significant concerns of the company or the overall picture. It is defined by a failure to delegate to others and a desire to control every aspect of the company. Those that micromanage are often guilty of being annoyed if another employee makes decisions without consulting them, for example, even when buying a stapler or deciding to change the heating temperature.
It can also include producing overly detailed and voluminous reports, holding too many meetings, sending many emails, and demanding detailed performance feedback constantly. Others that complain of micromanagement say it can also manifest in the shape of low-level trivia dominating discussions and decisions, restrictions on the flow of information, too many processes and policies, and excessive criticism.
In some cases, micromanagement can even be compared to narcissistic behaviour as well as bullying in the workplace. For the person doing the micromanaging, it can be compulsive and addictive in many ways, as well as hard for them to acknowledge. As we know, it is not easy to simply become a CEO, but it is even harder to be a good one.
However, the role of the CEO is such that it requires a high level of oversight of a company’s operations. A CEO is an individual within a company that is responsible for overseeing profitability, strategy, human resources, agendas, the organisational structure, and communication with board members. The CEO should oversee every department and aspect of a company. Still, it is expected that they will delegate some tasks and supervision to managers and other individuals within the company.
As for who the CEO is, they are sometimes the owner or sometimes an individual appointed to the role based on their experience and skill set. It is typically the highest level within a company but sits below the board.
There is a fine line between being a good CEO with a suitable level of oversight and micromanaging a team to the point it could be considered abusive.
For example, a good CEO should have a broad knowledge of the measures to protect a company’s interests—consumer due diligence processes and knowing your customer are just two examples. The importance of the KYC verification of clients and third parties should not be overlooked as this is heavily regulated and supervised. Therefore, a CEO needs to be sure that all staff follows the applicable procedures as per the law and company policy. They would have a hand in putting together such policies, designating staff to monitor, implement, and report on the situation and any issues. While they would not be directly involved in the process of verifying customers to make sure they are who they say they are, they would be interested in making sure this takes place across the company in a regular fashion.
Another example would be the behaviour of a CEO during the process of hiring new staff. Typically, the CEO would notify HR or operations that a new staff member is needed, and those departments would get to work on creating a brief, sharing the advertisement, and interviewing staff. The final decision, however, would often be left to the CEO, who would schedule an interview with the final candidates, ultimately taking the decision whether to hire them or not.
Of course, they would call on the opinion of other team members involved in the process, but they would give the final sign-off. Micromanagement in this example would mean they wrote the job description, asked to sit in silently on all interviews, wanted oversight of all CVs and noted that HR took, and asked to be CC’d in on all communication.
The key is for CEOs to trust the people around them. That is easier said than done, but a crucial part of the job is making smart hires of professionals you can trust to do their job correctly. A good CEO has to be able to take a step back from all the details and minutiae day-to-day running of the company and instead focus on the big picture. Of course, there is a balance to be struck. It is necessary that the CEO is responsible and can ensure that things are working correctly and no corners are being cut. They need to project an image that they are omnipresent and omnipotent without micromanaging every single decision.
In short, it becomes micromanagement when you stop trusting your team and feel the need to get overinvolved in everything. While it is important to have oversight, particularly in key areas like finance, regulatory obligations, HR, and legal matters, this can be managed with a good team, digital tools, and the right amount of supervision. Failure to do so can result in an unhappy team and a stressed-out CEO!