A former CEO of mine was a micromanager. I knew this before I took the job as the company was a client for a couple of years. Socially, I like my boss and we’ve know each other for many years. I’d even call us friends.
Given my interest in entrepreneurship, I have strong feelings against micromanaging. Fool that I am I thought there was no way he’d try to micromanage me. Surely I was immune. Ha!
So I chaffed at the bit — I’d left lucrative contracts before when a client attempted such behaviour. I got stellar results: sales were up, gross margin was up, profit was up, costs were lower. I should have got all the freedom to run my division as I pleased.
But my boss comes from a retail background. I think retailers especially like to run things by the book. They love an operations manual which clearly spells out the detail of every step from opening in the morning to closing at night.
I then realised that it wasn’t his problem, it was mine. I try to deal with what is rather than what should be. Once I accept the reality I can start doing something about it.
Then I accepted I’m never going to change my boss. As a matter of fact until we worked together I liked spending time together. So how will I deal with this?
Understand the boss’s priorities. What are the top 5, 3 and 1 items for me to focus on? Reconfirm regularly to ensure they haven’t changed.
Use my communications skills. I am an excellent communicator. Start tracking the list of assigned tasks, negotiating deadlines that I can meet and renegotiating priorities as they change. This involves instigating planning discussions with my boss and organising my calendar to clearly show available resources.
Commit to frequent and regular updates. When I delegate to one of my team, I want to know if the task is on track and I want early warning if it’s leaving the rails. Other than that I don’t need the detail. The micromanager needs to know every step of every task. This means anticipating update requests but at the same time scheduling time in advance for progress briefings.
Document agreements. Followup verbal briefings, requests and agreements with an email to avoid confusion.
Micromanagers fear disorganisation and idleness. The best way to contain their excesses is to be organised. That’s tough as I am not a naturally organised person, but if I want the freedom to run my division I’ll need to meet the boss’s expectations. That’s what he pays me for.