Sometimes financial advisory firms struggle with the growth of their practices because they can't remember a simple phrase: You cannot grow until you let go. They might be managing too much.
This is particularly a problem for firms that begin as one-person shops. In many cases, the firm continues to be managed that way even after it has grown, with the boss involved in all aspects of the firm's operations. As a company gets bigger, this becomes an unworkable management model and can actually limit or prevent growth.
The typical characteristics of micromanagers could include one or more of the following (Source: Global Knowledge Whitepaper, 2011):
Micromanagers think being a manager means having more knowledge and/or skill than their employees.
They believe they can perform most of the tasks of their staff, probably better.
They believe they care about things like quality, deadlines, etc. more than the staff do.
They feel it is more efficient to do a job themselves than give it to a staff member.
They are overly critical of their staff. When they review the work of staff members, they tend to find at least one thing wrong each time. They often suffer from the "red pen" syndrome.
They don't allow their staff to learn from their mistakes.
They get irritated if members of the staff make decisions without consulting them.
They spend an inordinate amount of time overseeing single projects.
They pride themselves on being "on top of" their staff's projects.
They are overworked, and their staff is not.
They come into the office earlier than any staff member and leave later. If they are away from the office, they call in at least twice a day, including when they are sick or on vacation.
They seldom praise staff members.
Their staff appears frustrated, depressed, and/or unmotivated.
Their staff members do not take initiative-they have to check with the manager before doing anything.
They have been referred to as controlling, dictatorial, judgmental, critical, bureaucratic, suspicious or snooping by staff, managers or family members.
Some years ago, on a visit to a financial advisor's office, I noticed he had an hourglass timer whose sand ran out every ten minutes. I asked him what it was for. He said with a smile, "Oh, that. That is my workflow management system." I asked how it worked. He explained, "I turn this thing over, and when the ten minutes are up, no matter what I am doing, even if I am sitting with a client, I get up from my desk and go around to each one of my employees to see what they are doing and what I can do to help. And I do this because I am a river to my people."
Needless to say, his employees did not feel the same way about his system. In fact, company records showed that the firm "enjoyed" a 50% annual employee turnover rate. Since there were only seven members of staff, this was quite significant-and obviously inefficient. One employee who had stayed more than seven years, a part-timer who did accounting work, was also the most vocal about the boss: She called him an insufferable micromanager and several other names that cannot be repeated here. I asked why she was still there if she felt so strongly. She looked me straight in the eye and said, "It makes you wonder why I married the man."
This same firm was experiencing what is commonly called a "revenue ceiling"-failing to increase its net profitability despite great effort. The firm owner was either unwilling or unable to see the detrimental effects his management "technique" was having on the firm, much less the way it limited growth and profitability.
As surprising as this story might seem, it is far from unique. Many firms experience similar restrictions on profitability and growth, at least in part because of the boss's style of management.
The tendency to micromanage can be attributed to a couple of things, one of them poor management skills:
The manager still views himself or herself as "a doer" versus "an overseer."
The manager may be an expert in a certain field or have a personal passion for a particular specialization, which makes it difficult for him to step back from the details.
The manager will not delegate, or does not know how. He seems to struggle to get the work done that he believes his staff can't or won't finish.
He won't coach, or doesn't know how to. He doesn't take the time to help his staff learn.
The manager cannot manage projects effectively. He requires frequent communication with employees, including detailed status reports and updates.
The manager has difficulty managing his time. He spends it immersed in his staff's projects instead of performing his management functions
The manager has difficulty managing pressure from above or from outside the organization.
He can get "lost in the details" and not take the time to see the forest through the trees. Perhaps he spends too much time on mundane tasks such as reading e-mails, Internet surfing, etc.
Other times, though, it's less a management problem than one of leadership:
If he's been held accountable for the failings of his staff in the past, he may find it difficult to trust the skills or knowledge of current staff.
If he has been let down by staffers in the past, he may be cautious before trusting current ones.
If a manager has developed personal control issues, he may need to appear more knowledgeable than anybody else. He has difficulty sharing information or credit. He might need to feel power by having others need him.
Here are six steps to help advisors overcome being micromanagers if they think they might have the problem: