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How to prevent micromanaging at your Houston startup, small biz

A manager’s job is to coach their teams and create opportunities for them to succeed. Yet, as managers rise through the ranks, they are not always trained in how to delegate, trust their teams and let the little things go. If managers lack these skills, their micromanaging can quickly lead to an unhappy work environment and increase employee turnover.

A team can become even more successful when managers do not try to control and monitor everything. Instead of getting caught up in the project’s minutia, managers should focus on the bigger picture. The best approach is to delegate tasks and trust the team to complete their assignments, without interfering with the direct work.

Startups and small businesses are full of people with an entrepreneurial mindset who love to roll up their sleeves and get to work, no matter their job description. Just like frontline managers, founders and leaders need to be mindful not to become micromanagers, by giving their teams both the guidance and autonomy to make the business a success.

To prevent micromanagers from taking root in the organization, follow these tips.

Identify the micromanager

Micromanagement is not always easy for founders to detect. However, recognizing and understanding micromanagement is paramount to well-functioning teams and businesses.

When looking for signs of a micromanager, start by searching for managers who tend not to delegate and, if work is delegated, take over from their teams again and again, even after only a simple and harmless mistake. As a result, most of their time is spent overseeing others, while failing to progress on their own work. This can lead managers to lose focus on larger projects and strategy, unable to see how their daily tasks relate to the larger goals of the organization. Additionally, micromanagers request frequent updates and often find deliverables unsatisfactory.

As leaders, it is important to know the signs of micromanagement in order to prevent employee work dissatisfaction and high turnover, which is detrimental to a small business. The culture of a brand-new startup encourages everyone to do everything, which is exciting and rewarding. Managers may grow accustomed to being deeply ingrained in their employees’ day-to-day work. That said, as business scales and becomes more successful, teams expand, and micromanagement is no longer a sustainable management style.

Establish a process

Implementing a formalized process or workflow can help those who tend to micromanage track team projects. Since some use micromanagement to feel in control of a larger project, a project management system or software can help them focus on the higher-level strategy. When the company has a specific method for recording common tasks, they reduce the risk that managers will check-in too often while still lending structure to the overall projects. Beyond helping micromanagers, project management systems help everyone stay on track and communicate at every step in the process. This can increase self-management and efficiency within the organization.

Provide training

Leadership training provides the tools to improve team management and discuss the company’s expectations of managers, which can prove helpful, no matter the leader’s tenure. Management training often highlights a manager’s current leadership style, encourages self-reflection on their strengths and weaknesses, and provides the tools for growth.

Oftentimes, micromanagers are perfectionists and need to simply set their expectations with team members. These expectations can include preferred communication methods and frequency, how to ensure clarity of the tasks, workflow/project management and alerts surrounding urgent updates/mistakes. Once a manager knows their own expectations and communicates them with the team, they establish a better working environment.

Set objectives and key results

Savvy business leaders know micromanagers want to control the end goal. Setting objectives and key results (OKRs), which are actionable, quantifiable, have a deadline and ambitious, allows managers to practice control by meeting the objectives without feeling the need to control every aspect of the project. OKRs encourage managers to focus on big, impactful objectives that can be accomplished in a set amount of time.

Once the OKRs are set, regular, once a week meetings can give everyone the chance to present their progress and give group feedback on the OKRs. Management is also likelier to look at the bigger picture and allow their teams to thrive independently.

Bottom line

Teams need managers, but they need managers who provide guidance and give them the space to thrive. Addressing micromanagement does not mean managers should eliminate one-on-one check-ins or knowing a few of a project’s details. It does mean managers should trust team members to do their jobs. Mutual trust works wonders for workplace culture and a small business’s retention efforts.


Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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