3 Reasons Why Micro-Managing By Leadership Stops A Company Growth

Leadership Transitions
Published on
February 8, 2016

While micro-managing in any context is a big no-no, startup founders who micro-manage their fledgling companies can end up doing more harm than good. Founders in every startup begin by doing whatever they can to stay afloat, which results in them wearing several hats and exerting an opinion into every project. After all, they came up with the original concept and put it into action, doing everything from building code to taking the garbage out.  

However, each person has skill sets that stand out, and not one person is good at everything.

Let's understand Micro-management and the impact it has in detail.

Founders Misconceptions

In the beginning, this is entirely understandable, but as a business begins to scale, founders need to start to relinquish the very things that got them there. For most founders, that is typically marketing. It is where it gets tricky. If you're not a founder, imagine that you are: you have built a great company and put all your time, energy, and even money into it. You have gone through heartache and euphoria only to now hand over control of your branding to someone else.

You feel like you have built it to this level, that your vision is solid and that things should continue to be done your way. Despite this, you promise yourself that you would hire individuals who will handle this workload so that you can concentrate on building your company. Denial takes hold at this point. While this is a logical next step for a business, you may not be able to remove yourself from the process altogether. This is potentially fatal.

Specifically, when it comes to marketing, entrepreneurs often fail to recognize the harm they are causing by micromanaging every step of the process while having little experience in the sector. They continue to complain that they don't have time and need someone to take ownership, but then only hire people to tell them what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. To their detriment, they can never get out of their way. Micro-managing is a founder disease, even addiction, that be highly damaging to the company and the people who work there.

Impact of Micro-management

While pretending not to be in denial, you hire someone to build out your marketing department while focusing on business and development. The following series of events occur:

Short time involvement

You begin by telling the new hire your vision, informing them of the expectations regarding creative collateral and brand building, and let them know you won't be standing in their way. (The very fact that you just spent an hour telling them your vision and how you expect things to be done is a clear sign of involvement but isn't yet lethal.)

Continuous Change  

Let's say you're working on an email marketing campaign. After your marketer has finished the campaign, you rip it apart and tell them all of the ways it could be improved. Admittedly, who better knows your company and how to market it than you? Your marketer is the answer, and that is why you hired them in the first place. However, previous successes can obscure this obvious point. The silent killer of startups is often a founder who has found some success or luck, then thinks that their strategy is the only way to do something at the exclusion of any external input.  

Less space for thought transfer

Despite your efforts at sourcing a professional to help you grow your business, you end up changing them so that the marketing looks the same as you envisioned. This vicious cycle continues in each aspect of the marketing department's ideas and creations and can significantly stunt your company's creativity.

Employees and Micro-management

There are particular ramifications for this kind of behavior that founders who are perpetually in micro-managing denial never see:

  • Morale – For employees who've been hurt by micro-managing, morale is one sentiment that cannot be easily reversed. You have hired staff - in most cases highly qualified people - to do a particular job. While your intentions are good, you cannot seem to let them do what it is you hired them for. The more this goes on, the worse they feel about their abilities and their career. It is a clear leadership issue - denying people creativity and innovation will disrupt any department faster than you can recover their goodwill.
  • Growth – Founders are typically the company's face and therefore need to be out drumming up business, whether in meetings or doing PR—a founder's need for micro-managing stunts this from the start. Once a founder begins down the micro-managing road, it is almost impossible for them to turn it around. This will eliminate any significant growth opportunities as the founder is more concerned with managing the process than closing deals or branding their company through action.
  • Creativity – When a founder is in denial and continues to get their hands into everything, it leaves a permanent mark on the staff. This is especially problematic for a marketing team that is supposed to be creative. Founders might not realize that they undermine the team's competency every time they step in and make changes. While there certainly are times for course correction, being told what, how, and when to do things can become overwhelming. Knowing that their work would be inspected to an absurd degree, the staff becomes complacent, and they lose the incentive to go above and beyond since they will be stepped on again.
  • Turnover – Micro-managing is a significant factor for high turnover in a startup. People join startups for the culture, the ability to create new products, and the opportunity to have a hand in building a great company. Sure, some do it for the payday, but most want to be able to put their name on something. A founder who cannot get out their way and constantly is micro-managing their staff will inevitably see a high turnover rate. The very idea of micro-managing in a startup is a deal-breaker as far as most are concerned, and many people will leave rather quickly.

Founders that refuse to address their tendency to micro-manage can cost their company time, talent, and future deals. A board might ultimately force out even founders of companies that survive early staff churn and creative suppression once these issues come to light. The luckiest micro-managing founders might successfully exit their first company, only to dive back into their old habits with a second startup that can't sustain this damaging cycle.  

Our advice to founders is too micro-managing the hiring process, but trust your hire once you've decided. Give them the tools they need to succeed, then give them a chance to do so.

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