Entrepreneurs are a strange breed. We rarely like to let go. Normally we are the king of our own kingdoms because we are excellent at what we do, and most of the time, we can out-perform the majority of our employees when it comes to the tasks that we pay them to do for us.
However, I have a massive reality check for you all. We are also the absolute WORST, ball-breaking, micro-managing bunch of people on this green planet of ours! Fact!
Micro-managers are the types of people that know what they want, and how they want it. Regardless of what ‘it’ is. They are the type of people that will ask to be copied into every email their staff sends to clients. They are also the type of people that will ask you to attend a meeting with a client to close on a new business deal for the company, only to turn up and do it themselves, whilst you sit there like a lemon, twiddling your thumbs. [Note: Both of these things have happened to me before in the past, with an ex-boss!]
“If you want something done properly, you’ve got to do it yourself and learn how to stop micro-managing!”.
Ever heard that phrase before? Of course you have. In fact, you’d be kidding yourself, as an entrepreneur if you couldn’t admit that you’ve said it yourself at least a handful of times. I know I have!
I decided to write this post as a result of a Virtual Business Consultation call I did with someone last week. Throughout the course of my hour long conversation with ‘John’ (I’m changing my clients name for confidentiality reasons), we spoke about a lot of different subjects such as cloud computing, virtual assistants, productivity on the road and technology to help him grow his business, and then he dropped the final question on me… “No matter how hard I try to stop micro-managing people, I just can’t. How do I do what you did last year and remove myself from my business, but still have it run properly….?”.
My answer to John was simple enough, which I will go into a little later on. However, let me first state here and now, there is no quick-fix to this situation, or every business owner in the world would be doing it.
You Can’t Give it Up AND Live it Up!
In answering John, firstly, I was clear to point out that I was still very much involved in the operations of my company on a day-to-day basis – only from a distance the majority of the time. I still go into the office twice a week to meet with the various members of my management team, such as HR, Marketing and Operations and I still ‘work’ on my business every day.
In a nutshell, if you want your company to continue to run and grow properly, you still need to be involved. You can’t completely ‘remove’ yourself from your company, jet set around the world, unplugging completely for long periods of time and expect things to carry on as if you were there. Thats impossible. Whether you’re in the office for 12 hours a day, or working from various different locations, you still need to ‘be there’, and more importantly, be there regularly.
First Things First – Admit to Yourself You Have a Problem!
“Hi, my name is Chris and I’m a Micro-Manager, its been over a year since I micro-managed last…” .
As many of you might remember, at the beginning of 2010 I put a goal in place to become a Full-Time Virtual CEO by the end of the year. I achieved that goal. However, what hardly anyone knows is that it was the biggest, toughest challenge I have ever undertaken. Why? Because I was a micro-manager myself. Notice the word ‘was’ in that last sentence.
It was a year long goal, and to make it easier on me, I broke the goal down into twelve mini-goals, or monthly goals. It worked obviously, and for the most part I was bang-on target with all my goals, except one, which was a crucial hire I made three months later than I wanted to, but nonetheless, it all worked out.
However, it was the first goal, the goal I needed to achieve in January, that was the toughest out of the bunch. Looking back on my original notes I wrote down for myself, it simply says… ‘Stop Micro-Managing!’.
Making Your ‘Micro-Managing Maniac’ List
There were many things I was doing that ripped massive amounts of time away from being productive and fundamentally stopping me from living the lifestyle I wanted to, and growing my business. So, I made a list for myself and I suggest you do the exact same thing right after you’re done reading this post!
In the meantime, however, here are a few things I had on my list. Note, this list is not complete. There was more on it!!!
- Copied into HR emails.
- Copied into Admin emails.
- Copied into Operations emails.
- Copied into IT emails.
- Receive all client inquiry emails directly.
- Only I can answer client inquiries.
- Only I can write training material.
- Only I can produce sales and marketing copy.
- Only I can work with contractors when expanding.
- I handled final interviews of all new employees.
As you can tell, due to the fact that this list is not complete, I was very busy and was micro-managing all the time. I was involved more than I really needed to be, in virtually every department in my business. Plus, I was receiving and reading way too many emails.
Going Email Cold Turkey!
Things had to change, and I started with a drastic move – I stopped receiving all the additional emails I was being copied into. From everyone. I literally went cold turkey. There were still certain people I decided to keep emails coming from, such as certain management personnel, but on the whole everyone was told to basically not email me unless they deemed it to be absolutely essential.
This one thing created almost three hours of additional time every day for me. Overnight!
I did keep receiving the prospective client emails from our website for the next few months, and then decided to hand that over to someone else to manage. They spend a certain period of time every day weeding out the ‘tire kickers’ by replying to emails with a few short questions. If they are genuinely interested in working with us, then they will reply with answers. For those that don’t reply, we simply forget about them. This might sound a bit brutal, however, we receive on average around 50 inquiries a week, so it’s a very effective way of making that incoming number of prospects more manageable – plus, we do record everyones email address, so we can market to them regularly.
Stop Managing and Start Delegating
If I was to free up more time to be able to focus on the continued growth of the company I was going to have to start delegating like a madman! I looked at our training material. It was good. After all, I had personally written it – however, some of it was out of date and if I was to be honest, it needed to be updated with a more ‘local’ approach to getting results, faster, from new recruits. Enter my fantastic Operations and QA teams. They re-worked it, and I am very happy with the outcome.
Then the sales side of things needed a rejiggering. So, it was decided that I would only speak with prospective clients that needed a minimum of five outsourced employees working on their campaign. Everything less than that would be handled by my fantastic, and very capable Operations team.
On the expansion side of things, I brought in my wife, Ercille to work closely with my Admin team and our contractors. She knows me better than anyone in the world. The things I like, the things I hate, everything! We did two expansions in 2010, the first one in February which took 4 weeks to complete and happened when I was out of the country on business. Awesome! The second in December, where we needed to expand our HR and Accounting offices. Again, Ercille worked with the admin girls and the contractors almost every step of the way, coming to me only when she needed input on the color scheme of the walls and a few other minor details.
Finally, nowadays with almost 250 full-time staff working for me, I only do the final interviews of supervisory and management staff only. All my other ‘Live2Sellers’ (as we are known as!) are interviewed, tested and hired by my HR Manager and her team of assistants, following guidelines that have been in place for a long, long time and are proven to make sure we find people that fit our company culture and outlook on life and work in general.
So, as I said to John on our call, make a long story, short…. Just start delegating. Sure, some of your staff will screw up (so did some of mine!), but ultimately, they learned by their mistakes and have become stronger members of the company because of that trust shown in them to step-up and do the jobs on their own. I’m pretty confident yours will do.
If I had of continued to bail them out, and read their emails and micro-manage them the way I was, there is absolutely no way we would be where we are today, not only with the fantastic staff we have, but also the awesome client base we have (if any of my clients are reading this – thank you, you all ROCK!)
Have you guys ever delegated your way to great accomplishments? If so, what’s your tips on how to stop micro-managing! I’d to hear about it. If not, perhaps you can start now, and let us all know how you get on in the near future!