Don’t Change; Leverage.

I was contacted by a business that’s struggling. Atypically, the concern was not financial. The founder was struggling with his own micromanagement. He can’t help but insert himself into every part of the business, unintentionally stunting the growth of his employees and his company.

It is a surprisingly common dilemma. Micromanagement was necessary in the early days. The entrepreneur needs to do it all, and manage a few people. There is no time devoted to systems and process, so everything just sits in the founders head and the “system” is micro-managing. But what got him here, won’t get him there. The fix?

Simple! Don’t fix it.

Let me explain. If the owner tried to defeat his micromanaging behavior, it would be a battle of willpower. It was a behavior that served him well. It was a habit that was chock full of successes and emotional rewards. His brain is literally wired to micromanage. And willpower won’t fix it.

He may be able to pull it off for a week or two. He may be able to loosen the reigns, briefly. But the moment something falls short of his expectations he will jump in again to micromanage. In fact, he is wired (like we all are) to keep our habits intact. So if he believes micro-managing is necessary, when he removes himself from doing it, he will unconsciously look for failures so he can return to micro-managing. He will look for any reason to sustain his established, old habit.

The solution isn’t to fix a habit, it’s to redirect it. Since his tendency is to constantly check-in and give input, we simply give him the “check-ins” before he seeks it out. Instead of him asking how things are going, triggering fear and inserting himself, he now gets reports that give him the status before he asks.

Studying his micromanaging ways, we found that he has “ten areas of concern.” Each employee now knows the ten situations that will trigger his micromanagement and always report the problem with a solution already in place.

Since the fear triggers have been removed, he no longer feels compelled to micromanage. He is using all this spare energy to sell the big deals. They didn’t have a financial problem before, just a management problem. Now they don’t have a management problem, and sales are on course to double.

Don’t try to willpower your way through habits; Understand their triggers and redirect the energy.

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