During my three seminars at the JLC Live show last December, I asked attendees if anyone liked to be micromanaged. Not one person raised their hand. Just as business owners don’t want to be micromanaged, neither do employees. But the practice is prevalent inside many, if not most, remodeling businesses. If you or your managers are micromanaging employees, as the owner, you are responsible. Here are some techniques to curb the culture of micromanagement.
1. Collect and document the information your employees need to do their jobs independently. If you don’t provide written procedures for tasks related to each job description — including why you want things done a certain way — then your only option is to micromanage their activities. Both the office and field staff need to know what to do and why, so they can work independently. If they know the “why” behind your request, they will be better able to judge exceptions to the rules.
To prevent micromanaging field staff, provide them with a complete package of materials and products, labor budgets for each task, and clear specifications and plans. This should happen during the sales to production handoff meeting, but don’t just hand off the packet — go over it together and ask if anything is missing.
2. Make sure the information is accessible to everyone who needs it, when they need it — and I don’t mean via a call to your cell phone. All employees should have instant access to their job descriptions and the company’s procedure manual. Making it available via a Web-based application is a great option. Field employees also need project-specific information. Again, Web-based access is best, but a well-assembled job folder will do the trick until you can update your company’s technology and software.
3. Provide adequate training for employees so they are less likely to do things wrong and require micromanaging to make sure they complete tasks correctly. Also, if they are trained, staff can share their knowledge with other employees and help manage subordinates and new hires. Keep in mind the extra effort and time it takes them to collect information. It adds up — reducing efficiency and eating away at profit — thereby reducing your ability to finance future training.
Unless you address the reasons for micromanagement, the problem will persist and may even worsen. If your employees don’t know what to do on their own and always call you to find out, they will always assume that they need to be micromanaged and will be less likely to take risks or use their initiative — especially if you or a manager react by attacking or belittling them if they get it wrong.
By the way, isn’t avoiding micromanagement one of the reasons you left a job to start your own business?
—Shawn McCadden founded, operated, and sold a successful design/build company. A co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute, he speaks at industry events and consults with remodelers. firstname.lastname@example.org
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