For originators, one of the most frustrating scenarios is working for a micromanager. At some point, everyone has experienced this type of controlling boss — someone who focuses on the details to such a degree that he or she creates an oppressive work environment. Never satisfied with any deliverable, micromanagers love to nit-pick and demand to be part of every email chain. Instead of improving performance, this behavior often results in de-motivating the sales team and driving away good producers.
The unfortunate reality is that most of the time, micromanagers don’t even realize they are doing it. Why does this happen? A Harvard Business Review article by Ron Ashkenas suggests two reasons why managers engage in this behavior:
- Managers worry about being disconnected. As managers rise through the ranks, they start to feel isolated and look to stay connected through adding reports and meetings to their schedules. While they may have good intentions, the manager’s anxiety to seek information gets out of hand and overwhelms the employees for whom they are responsible. In mortgage banking, this is especially common in positions beyond the branch level where top producers have been promoted to the next level.
- Managers stay in familiar territory. In the same vein, when top performers move up to a management position, often the new job is unsatisfactory to them. They won’t admit it but in their new roles, they are now asked to be strategic thinkers and to do administrative work which is not as thrilling as being on the front lines dealing with customers and referral sources. This can be a difficult transition for them and unconsciously they continue to spend time in the more comfortable realm of selling. They love to do sales calls with their originators and then take over the sales call thinking they are coaching but they are not. Again at the core, micromanaging is really about anxiety about the manager’s new role.
The problem with micromanaging is that it can give the appearance of an involved manager and may even reap short-term results. But over time, this “getting in the weeds” negatively impacts the sales team and the organization. Further, it prevents managers from spending time on critical issues that need to be addressed.
So, what is the cure for micromanaging? According to a Harvard Business Review article by Muriel Watkins, the author notes that the first step is for managers to ask themselves some tough questions about their own behavior. Her suggestions include:
- Identify the signs of a micromanaging mindset:
• “It will save time if I just do it myself”
• “Too much is at stake to allow this to go wrong”
• “It’s my credibility on the line”
• “When I am not involved, they mess up”
• “My boss wants me to be heavily involved”
- Look at the to do list
Are there issues that can be delegated to others? Are there tasks that can serve as a training exercise? What are your top priorities where you can add value? What tasks are less important? Everything is not of equal value.
- Give the what and not the how
Articulate the vision of what you want done and what the final outcome will look like but leave the step-by-step details up to the employee. Providing the “how” deprives the employee of an opportunity to be creative.
- Recognize that micromanaging is really about fear of failure.
By magnifying the risk of failure, micromanaging can lead to an unrealistic view when setbacks do occur. No one wins 100% of the time. Just as in life, sometimes the best business lessons are driven by setbacks which prompt managers and employees to change and learn. Over time, a loss every now and then helps build a strong track record in the long run.