Having Goals Matters

Kevin P. Dincher

[Originally posted on the Professionals in Philanthropy Blog]

Let’s Make a Deal

During the 1980s, the popularity of TV game shows declined so dramatically that networks would only commit to a 13-week run—and rarely kept tapes of the shows.  But in their heyday of the 1950s and 1960s game shows were a staple of both primetime and daytime TV—with shows like What’s My Line?,  I’ve Got a Secret, The Match Game and Let’s Make a Deal. 

Let’s Make a Deal required very little of its contestants.  They were automatically given aalice prize.  Something like cash or a TV.  The host then offered them the opportunity to trade that prize for another prize hidden behind one of three curtains or doors.  There was no strategy involved in the choice.  Just a willingness to risk the prize that they already had on the possibility of getting a prize of greater value.  Sometimes contestants went home with a vacation at a beach resort in Florida.  More often they got “zonked” and went home with a blow-up kiddie pool.   Risk was certain while success was purely accidental.

Having Goals Matters

When it comes to leading organizations, like being a contestant on Let’s Make a Deal, risk is certain—and without clear goals, each decision is a bit like saying, “I’ll take what’s behind curtain #2.”  You don’t know if choosing curtain #2 will take your organization where you want it to go because without goals you don’t know where you want to go.

Yes, maybe it turns out that there is a high-end luxury car behind curtain 2; but you are just as likely to get a rusted-out Radio Flyer wagon.  Without goals, success is pretty much accidental.  This is where strategic planning comes in.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is a critical tool for your organization’s success.

  • A strategic plan describes where your organization is going over the next three, four or five years by laying out measurable goals and explaining why those goals are important.
  • A strategic plan also describes how your organization is going to achieve those goals by creating a consciously-chosen and clearly defined framework for moving forward.

Organizations in every industry, in all sectors and of all sizes utilize strategic planning to enhance their ability to succeed.  Does yours?


moonKevin P Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.  Kevin currently provide services to non-profit organizations through a partnership with Professionals in Philanthropy.

LinkedIn: kevindincher           Twitter:  kdincher

Posted in Management, Organization Development (OD), strategy. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Having Goals Matters

Fundraising Professionals: Decorating Your New Office? Don’t Bother. You Won’t Be There That Long!

P6Summary of a 2-Part Presentation for the Las Vegas Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (March 25 and September 23, 2016)

Decorating your new office?  Don’t bother.  Fundraising professionals change jobs on average just 16 to 19 months after being hired, so you won’t be there very long.  Although the days when workers stayed with an employer for many years is a thing of the past, a turnover rate of 16 to 19 months is extremely high.  Even our most job-mobile generation, the millennials, stay in a job about 5 years—three times longer than fundraising professionals.

This high turnover rate is bad for a nonprofit’s bottom line.

Turnover is expensive in general. 

Replacing an employee can cost as much as two times that employee’s annual salary in recruitment costs and lost productivity.  Additionally, it can take six months or more to replace a professional level employee.  When that employee is a fundraiser, development activity grinds to a halt—and the cost in missed development opportunities may be immeasurable.

A tenure of a year and half is too short for effective development activity. 

Stepping into a position that has likely been vacant for six months, it takes newly hired fundraisers as much as a year to get “up to speed” while they build relationships within the organization and rebuild neglected relationships and lost trust with donors and funders.  During that time, they may be able to do little more than gather low-hanging fruit.  Then six months later they are off to a new job, and the cycle repeats itself.

This high turnover rate is bad for fundraisers—personally and professionally.

Changing jobs (even voluntarily) ranks among the five or six most stress-creating life events.

Changing jobs creates a level of stress that ranks up there with getting divorced and experiencing a major illness or accident.  People who change jobs every year and a half are living with a perpetual stressor that can wear them down physically, emotionally, mentally and socially.

Frequent job changes can stall a career.

In the nonprofit world it is often the case that the only way to increase your income or advancing your career is by changing jobs (a problem we will come back to).  When potential employers see a pattern of changing jobs frequently after a short tenure, however, here is what they are thinking:

  1. Since the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior, you probably will not stay with them any longer than you stayed in any of your previous jobs. We just suffered through a “development drought” while we went through a long, expensive and annoying recruitment process—and we do not want to be doing that again a year and a half from now.
  2. If you haven’t been in any one job for even two years, you probably have really just spent most of your time finishing up someone else’s work and going after low-hanging fruit—and probably have not really acquired and developed the advanced skills we need.
  3. Let’s keep looking.

Is it Burnout?

I have no doubt that people in the fundraising profession do experience burnout, but burnout does not sufficiently explain the revolving door trend.  Even fundraisers who report being happy and satisfied in their current positions take part in this ongoing profession-wide churning.

Additionally, I am always wary when people start talking about burnout because the tendency is to treat burnout as the employee’s problem, and therefore solutions focus on how the employee can deal with burnout.  Develop better time management skills.  Get more exercise.  Once the talk shifts to burnout, however, we rarely turn out attention back to what is actually going on in the organization.  And with an average turnover rate of about a year and a half for fundraising professionals, something is going on in nonprofit organizations.   In fact, many factors coalesce to create an environment that encourages fundraisers to move on—but there are steps you and your organizations can take to slow down the revolving door trend.

Compensation:  low compensation is the number on turnoverreason that fundraisers give for changing jobs.

Many nonprofit organizations do not (and some cannot) pay a competitive salary.  The smaller the organization the less able it is to meet its workers’ salary needs.  Additionally, our compensation needs naturally increase over time.  The salary that works for a new college student in a small apartment does not work for a couple or for a family that needs to plan for college and retirement.  All this works towards encouraging you to move from smaller to larger nonprofits that can pay more (leaving smaller nonprofits with less expensive and less experienced fundraisers).

Strategies for Fundraisers

Sharpen your career management skills. 

Given the current “turnover tarantella” in the fundraising profession, most fundraisers should anticipate looking for a new job sometime in the not-too-distant future.  If they want to slow down their participation in the rapid and frequent turnover trend, they should develop the skills they need to make good decisions about their next position.  With improved career management skills, they are more likely to be offered and accept positions in organizations that are a better fit for them—and when the fit is better, they are more likely to stay longer.

 Strategies for Leaders/Managers

 Pay a competitive salary to all employees. 

Easier said than done.  Few organizations are in a position to simply raise everyone’s salaries.  But if your organization does strategic planning (and it should), then that plan should include goals and objectives for bringing salaries in line with industry standards.  It is a matter of fairness, and people like to be treated fairly.  Additionally, when people see there is an actual strategy in place for getting them to fair compensation, that tells them that they are as important as programs and services or the new building that is being planned.  When people feel they are being treated fairly and are important to the organization and its leaders, they are less likely to move on.

 Find other ways to make working for the organization attractive.

Be creative.  Think of things that make the working environment better for fundraising professionals.  Think of things that can save them time.  Think of things that make it easier for them to maintain a balance between work life and personal life.  All these things help eliminate unnecessary stress—and when the level of unnecessary stress goes down, people feel good about where they work.  And when people feel good about where they work, they tend to stay around.  They also tend to be more productive.

Make a habit of acknowledging people’s efforts. 

We all like to know that our efforts matter and that our work makes a difference.  We feel good when those efforts are acknowledged.  Being thanked makes us feel good about ourselves. about our work and about the company where we work.  Letting people know that what they have done matters keeps them engaged, excited and motivated—and engaged, excited and motivated people are more likely to stay around.

Career Advancement:  Lack of career advancement opportunities is the second most often reason given by fundraisers for changing jobs.

Development departments tend to be small with limited opportunities (or none at all) for advancement within the department.  Also, nonprofits tend to have small executive leadership teams; while many development people hope to move into leadership positions—even executive director positions—a small leadership team offers very limited opportunities for advancement within the organization.  Fundraisers quickly realize that if they want to “move up” they have to “move out.”

Strategy for Fundraisers

Be proactive when it comes to your career development. 

Fundraisers shouldn’t wait for employers to provide training and development opportunities.  Rather they should plan their own development program.  This decreases the need to move from one organization to another in order to develop new skills and abilities.   They may still have to “move out” to “move up” but it takes fewer intermediate job changes to get where they want to be.

Strategy for Leaders/Managers

Make a commitment to staff development—even if you can offer little or no actual career ladder to climb—and think of it as an investment rather than an expense.

 The payback of investing in staff training and development is immense.

  • Knowing that an employer is willing to provide training and development makes an employee feel valued—and that breeds loyalty. Loyal employees are not prone to leave.
  • Employee development keeps work from being boring and can keep your employees engaged at work. Engaged employees are more likely to stay around longer.
  • Employee development is viewed as a benefit and helps with the compensation difficulty discussed above.

But the payback goes beyond employee retention.

  • Investing in training and development produces well-trained, confident and engaged employees who are going to do better work in the long run—and that is going to save money as they become more proficient and efficient.
  • Employee development makes an employer more attractive to potential employees. When an organization invests in its people, it attracts the best staff, while offering training, continuing education, conference attendance—or even something as simple as a book allowance—attracts employees who are looking to better themselves.
  • Being committed to employee development improves the organization’s reputation. When staff members do leave to work elsewhere they take the message that they come from a great place to work.

Structural Issues

At some point every organization is challenged by structures and processes that seem to impede rather than support its ability to meet goals and achieve its mission. Simply put, what got them from Point A to Point B in the past no longer works—or at least it is harder and takes longer to get from B to C.  Reporting structures can become roadblocks.  Communication slows and requires a magic decoder ring.  Silos develop inhibiting collaborating and stifling innovation and creativity. New skill sets are needed that no one seems to have.  The structural challenge most often cited by fundraisers as a reason for leaving involves leaders, managers and board members.

Poor leadership and managerial skills drive employees to look for work elsewhere.

When you ask employees what would improve retention rates, in addition to better compensation and more advancement opportunities, they cite strong leadership.  They want leaders who, among other things, can:

  • Communicate well (including the ability to listen)
  • Facilitate change
  • Strategize and connect their people to that strategy
  • Empower people and engage them in decision-making
  • Build trust, bring people together, inspire and motivate people and show appreciation.

These are all skills that leaders can learn and develop.  But it is easy for nonprofit leaders to focus their attention and efforts exclusively on immediate needs and to pay less attention to the systemic issues that ultimately drive an organization’s long-term success. One area that they often neglect is their own development.

Lack of board formation drives fundraisers to look for work elsewhere.

One of the frequent consequences of structural challenges in an organization is a lack of clarity about who does what and how.  That lack of clarity can extend to an organization’s board.  Often board members don’t understand their own role on the board in general and in fundraising in particular.  Many board members do not actually understand how fundraising works, nor do they understand the specific strategies fundraisers use to generate contributions.  They only know that they are supposed to assist with fundraising.

Without a clear understanding of what is expected of them and without training on how to support fundraising efforts, some board members will offer no assistance or support to fundraising efforts at all.  More problematic and frustrating for fundraisers, however, are board members who go off on their own with activities that conflict with the work of fundraising staff.  This independent activity is not just frustrating and stressful for fundraisers; it is frequently damaging to the agency’s development efforts.

Strategy for Fundraisers

 Claim a seat at the board room table.

Be proactive with board development around fundraising.  Fundraisers should push for opportunities to join board meetings to inform board members on what fundraising is, how fundraising and development works, what the current development strategies are and what assistance is needed from board members.

Strategies for Leaders/Managers

Make your own leadership/management skills development a priority. 

Get help in evaluating your leadership and management strengths and weakness—then create a strategic leadership program for yourself.  This requires a certain amount of humility:  you have to be willing to admit that you don’t have all the answers and that there is room for improvement.

Make board formation and ongoing development a priority.  

Create a clear picture of the board’s role, recruit board members based upon needed skills, develop job descriptions for board members, and educate board members on their role.  Incorporate development into regular board processes.  In the area of fundraising, bring in fundraising staff to explain what they do and how fundraising works, their goals and objectives, and their strategies.  Facilitate the building of relationships between fundraisers and board members.

Cultural Issues

An organization’s culture consists of the values, beliefs and attitudes that are operative in the organization.  These operative values, beliefs and attitude may be the same as the organization’s espoused valued, beliefs and attitudes—or they may not be.    It is, however, the operative rather than the espoused that guide behavior and practices and sculpt a worker’s experience.

Fundraising professionals consistently report that their organizations’ attitude towards their development work is not altogether positive.  In some organizations (perhaps even most organizations), development work is perceived as not being part of the core of what the organization is about.  Development work is (regrettably) necessary so that they can do the real work of the organization.

When the culture doesn’t view and value development work as a mission-aligned program of the organization, fundraisers do not stay around very long.  Fundraisers often find themselves isolated and without the support they need within the organization.  When they reach out, they are politely told in a dozen different ways, “It’s not my job.”  They often find they are left out of strategic discussions and parts of the decision-making process—and then find themselves unexpectedly saddled with unrealistic expectations and unattainable goals.  By the way, conversely, when fundraisers are left out of strategic discussions and the decision-making process, organizations miss out on the possibility of fundraisers saying, “Wait a minute!  We can do more than that!”

Strategy for Fundraisers

Work on building relationships within the organization.

A culture of philanthropy is rooted in relationship-building.  Don’t ignore relationships within your organization.  Giving attention to those relationships can help shift people’s perception of and attitude towards development work.

Teach your coworkers about what you do.

Create opportunities—both informal and formal—to help people understand what philanthropy is, what you do, how what you do impacts what they do, etc.  Information goes a long way when it comes to building relationships and partnerships.

Strategy for Leaders/Managers

Start shifting the culture from a culture of fundraising to a culture of philanthropy. 

The most effective organizations embrace a culture of philanthropy.  In a culture of philanthropy fund development is viewed and valued as a mission-aligned program along with the other work of the organizations.  Everyone in the organization—from the janitor to the board chair—promotes philanthropy and can articulate a case for giving, and most people in the organization act as ambassadors and engage in the relationship building that is the heart of philanthropy and development.

Cultural change is unquestionably difficult, but it is not impossible.  Leaders can start by increasing the visibility and involvement of development staff in planning and decision-making—and by setting an example by increasing their own commitment to and involvement in fundraising.  For a full-scale cultural shift, they may need outside assistance.

One Size Does Not Fit All

High turnover among fundraising professionals impacts the success and well-being of nonprofit organizations and of the fundraising professionals who support them.  No two organizations, however, are exactly the same.  What may be behind high turnover in one organization may not be an issue in another.

If the Development Office has a revolving door, and you want to do something about it, take the time to assess and understand your own specific situation so that you can apply the right solution to the problem.  “Random Acts of Problem Solving” only work by happy coincidence and more frequently waste valuable time, energy and resources.  But with the right tool for the right job, you’ll get the outcomes you need faster and with a lot less work!


Kevin P Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.  Kevin currently provide services to non-profit organizations through a partnership with Professionals in Philanthropy.

LinkedIn: Kevin P. Dincher

Posted in Employee retention, Employee turnover, Leadership, Management, Non-profit Management, Organization Development (OD). Tags: , , , , , . Comments Off on Fundraising Professionals: Decorating Your New Office? Don’t Bother. You Won’t Be There That Long!

When Should Managers Do Team Building?

Kevin P. Dincher

In a recent article about why team building efforts are often less than successful (Team Building?!?! Oh, No!) I said, “…effective team development requires knowing when to do team building—and when not to do team building.” Since the article was about failed team building efforts, I focused on knowing when not to do team building and identified some situations when managers often attempt team building but shouldn’t. Of course, that left the other half of the statement hanging: when should you do team building?

Do team building when you can clearly identify a need for improving the team’s performance.  Team building is about improving team performance—not about promoting a team environment. Effective team building changes the way your people work (both individually and as a group) so that the team is better able to meet its goals and achieve its mission.

Team building that focuses nebulously on “building a team environment” or “promoting teamwork” or some other “feel good” purpose rarely result in change—and are the type of team building sessions that tend to produce cynicism and resistance. No one believes anything will be different once everyone returns to the office—except perhaps that they will be further behind in their work after being away for a day or two. And they are probably right.

Effective team building addresses your team’s real needs and enhances the team’s ability to meet the needs of its customers, co-workers and other stakeholders—and needs to be designed to achieve tangible and important performance outcomes.

The need to improve performance may be internal to the team. Obviously, any breakdown within the teamwork indicates that a team needs help. Poor execution and troubled interpersonal relationships are frequent reasons that managers initiate team building. Dysfunctional behaviors like

  • Avoidance of team interactions (i.e., missing meetings)
  • Chronic complaining
  • Decreased communication, directness and openness
  • Absenteeism, apathy or lack of interest
  • Blaming others or undermining the efforts of others

keep people from working effectively together and may be signs of “team distress.”

Managers must determine if these are the behaviors of just one or two individuals or are widespread throughout the team. If they are the behavior of a couple of individuals, then the manager needs to address these behaviors on an individual basis. If, however, these behaviors are widespread, then team building can help address the underlying issues—but only if you pinpoint the specific issues and needs, establish clear performance goals for the team building effort, and design a team building effort that specifically addresses those issues.

The need to strengthen team performance may be strategic. Even if your team does not show signs of “team distress,” changes and circumstances can challenges your team’s ability to maintain its effectiveness or provide opportunities for your team to “up its game.” Team building can help with a wide range of these needs.  Just a few examples are:

  • You are new as the team leader or there are several new team members;
  • The team needs to agree on its strategic vision or clarify its shared values in light of changes in the company’s strategy;
  • The team needs to strengthen its relationship with internal and/or external customers;
  • The company is going through a major change—such as a merger or acquisition—that impacts roles, structure and lines of authority, and your team needs help shifting gears.
  • The team needs to form strategic alliances with another team and start to work more effectively across what had previously been clear boundaries.

Team building can help your team determine how to address these issues and ensure its ongoing effectiveness—although, just was with issues of team distress, only if you pinpoint the specific issues and needs, establish clear performance goals for the team building effort, and design a team building effort that specifically addresses those issues.

Identifying real needs helps build commitment. Since the expectation for team building is usually some change in the way people work, team requires a commitment by the team leader and by every member of the team. Everyone on the team needs to understand that the effort is about making changes and needs to commit to the resulting changes. When team building addresses specific needs that your people experience as real and when the goals of team building are clear, tangible and important, then your people are more likely to commit—and your team building effort more apt to succeed in improving your team’s performance.

So, when should you do team building? When you:

  1. Can identify a need for improved performance on the part of the team,
  2. Can establish clear, tangible and important goals for the team building effort, and
  3. Can plan a team building effort designed specifically to achieve those goals.

Kevin P Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.  Kevin currently provide services to non-profit organizations through a partnership with Professionals in Philanthropy.

LinkedIn: Kevin P. Dincher

 

Posted in Management, Organization Development (OD), Teams. Tags: , . Comments Off on When Should Managers Do Team Building?

The Best Leaders are OK with Being Wrong

Kevin P. Dincher

For 15 years, I’ve kept a book called The Joy of Being Wrong on my office shelf. It is a work of theological anthropology, but that is beside the point. I keep it around because of the title. Anyone who knows me well knows that I really like being right—and I mean I really like being right—and I keep The Joy of Being Wrong around because the title reminds me that there are more important things than always being right.

Taking pleasure in being right is a universal human trait. I suspect humans became hard-wired to feel good about being right when being wrong meant becoming dinner for a saber-toothed cat. Of course, success does require that we be right more often than they are wrong. As a result, leaders devote a great deal of energy to making sure they are right, and they become quite good at fighting for their own point of view. However, as organizational anthropologist Judith E. Glaser explains in Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & Get Extraordinary Results, when people argue and win, their brains are flooded with adrenaline and dopamine. This makes them feel good, dominant, and even invincible. It feels great to be right, and the human brain begins to crave the positive feelings generated by being right. People essentially become addicted to being right.

Addictive behavior, however, interferes with productive sharing of information and ideas, stymies creativity, and damages work relationships.

We Can’t Both be Right

Leaders who are addicted to being right tend not to give dissenting voices a fair hearing and will cut off discussion prematurely. Often, however, an extended discussion is exactly what is necessary to bring out new perspectives, to recognize additional complexity, or to improve on an idea or a plan.

Such discussions, however, can only happen when leaders can entertain the possibility that they might not be completely right and someone else could be. When leaders know that they don’t have it all wrapped up in cellophane they work to become better listeners. Someone else might have the missing piece or even a better idea altogether. Leaders who are willing to risk being wrong encourage discussions that that include opposing ideas knowing that better decisions can be reached.

I Thought I was Wrong Once, but I was Mistaken

Leaders become very good at fighting for their own point of view and ideas. When they are getting high off the feeling of being right, however, they keep arguing until others are browbeaten into agreeing that they are right. Bullied into submission, people disengage. They shut up, hide behind group consensus, or simply agree to make the pain stop. These bullying bosses are usually unaware of the inhibiting impact they have on their people and see acquiescence as further evidence that they are right.

However, leaders need their people to stay engaged so they do their best work and develop their most creative ideas. Leaders who are willing to risk being wrong are more apt to build collaborative relationships instead of browbeating people into submission.

Mistakes were Made, but Not by Me

When things do fall apart, as they inevitably will from time to time, it is common enough to see leaders dodge responsibility and put great effort into covering up and rationalization. Just think of the many political scandals of the past few years. Those cover-ups seem like bungled attempts at PR and poor crisis management. In Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, however, social psychologists Carol Travis and Elliot Aronson explain that our brains are hard-wired for self-justification. Being right makes people feel good about themselves; being wrong does the opposite. In order to calm the negative feelings that arise from being wrong, people cover up, rationalize, and lie—even to themselves.

People who are addicted to being right create fictions that they actually believe themselves in order to restore their belief in their own goodness, morality and rightness. Consequently, there is no need for them to change their thinking or behavior since they have convinced themselves they were actually right all along. The best leaders, however, are those who deal honestly with their mistakes when they make them, learn from those mistakes and then make changes. Moreover, being honest when we are wrong has a powerful benefit: it teaches people that they can trust us to tell them the truth—even when we are not the hero of the story. People know when their leaders are covering their own tracks, and they lose respect, confidence and trust in those leaders who do.

Among all the attributes of the great leaders discussed in blogs, discussion groups and articles, one stands out: they are all highly trusted. Having a compelling vision, an unshakable strategy, innovative insight and a skilled team won’t get you very far if people do not trust you. To earn that trust, you will have to admit that you can be wrong sometimes and be honest about it when you are.


Kevin P Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.  Kevin currently provide services to non-profit organizations through a partnership with Professionals in Philanthropy.

LinkedIn: Kevin P. Dincher


Posted in Leadership, Management. Tags: , . Comments Off on The Best Leaders are OK with Being Wrong

So You Do Micromanage – At Least Sometimes

Kevin P. Dincher

You read my post Beware of Micromanaging and thought, “Maybe I do micromanage a bit.”  Then you read my post Micromanagers are Like Vampires and thought, “Yes, I guess I do micromanage – at least sometimes – but I get results with my managerial style, so it must work”

Micromanagers like to “prove” that their approach works with a simple experiment:  they give an employee an assignment and then disappear until the deadline – in other words, they stop managing altogether.  An exceptionally confident employee may welcome the respite from constant oversight and run with the assignment — but that is not the case with most micromanaged workers.  Micromanagers erode their workers’ self-confidence.  Micromanaged workers become tentative; having learned that nothing they do by themselves is ever good enough, they become reluctant to make decisions on their own or take any action without direction or approval.  The manager’s experiment with withdrawing all management leaves them floundering.  As a result, they do one of two things:  either (a) they go to the manager to ask for direction before the deadline or (b) they struggle along to the deadline without any managerial support and come up with inadequate results.  In either case, the micromanager sees “proof” that without constant intervention workers flounder or fail.

The 5 Ws

Assuming you are getting the message that micromanaging is generally not good for your people or the health of your organization, don’t rush headlong into a commitment to stop micromanaging cold turkey.  That probably won’t work anyway; ingrained habits are hard to break.  It can be helpful to understand your micromanaging behavior better before making changes.

Use the 5 Ws – who, what, when, where and why – to gain a better understanding of your micromanaging behavior.

WHO? 

Some managers simply micromanage everyone.  Not all micromanagers, however, micromanage everyone or everyone to the same extent.  They may micromanage certain individuals, some groups of individuals, a particular work group or some departments.  Remember:  micromanaging is not all-or-nothing; it is not a case of either you micromanage or you don’t.  There are levels of micromanagement.  Check out Micromanagers are Like Vampires for the different levels of micromanagement.  Identify who you actually micromanage – and create a list.

WHAT?

Just as some managers micromanage everyone while others do not, some managers micromanage everything while others only micromanage some work, certain processes, or particular projects.  For each of the people and groups on your micromanaging list, identify specifically what they do that you micromanage.

WHEN?

While there are all-the-time micromanagers, some managers micromanage more at certain times than at others.  At times, this makes some sense—like a former client in a finance group who only micromanaged near the end of each quarter as deadlines loomed.  There are times, however, when the timing makes no sense at all – like a former client who only micromanaged in the morning.  Seriously.  Yes, I agree.  That is a bit bizarre.  For each of the people and groups on your list, identify when you micromanage them.  All the time?  At certain times of the day, week, month or quarter?

WHERE?

Micromanaging behavior can also be triggered by place—different geographies or facilities.  There are people who manage teams that are spread out across different regions who micromanage their workers in one region differently than those in others.  Some managers manage the same person very differently depending upon where they happen to be working at the time.

  • A CEO I know has two teams doing roughly the same work, one in the USA and one in his home country. He consistently micromanages the USA-based team but gives the team in his home country a great deal of independence.
  • A former client told me that her manager gave her a great deal of independence as long as she was working in the executive office building; but her work frequently took her to another company facility—and when it did, he became a micromanaging ogre.
  • Another client loved going on business trips because as soon as he was out of town his director stopped micromanaging him.

For each of the people and groups on your list, identify where you micromanage them.

 WHY?

Why is the toughest but perhaps most important of the 5 Ws.  Why gets to the underlying reason for your behavior.  There are, of course, many reasons why managers micromanage their people.  For example:

  • Sometimes it is personality—they just need to be in control—and the pressure to succeed drives them to increase that control.
  • Some managers truly believe that no one else knows as much as they do, is as talented as they are or can do a job as well as they can.
  • Other managers lack confidence in their ability to manage in any other way (which is not surprising since so few managers today receive training to be either managers or leaders). When challenges and pressures grow, so does their anxiety over their ability to manage—and they work all the harder to maintain control.
  • Sometimes micromanagers have risen up in an organization but struggle to let go of their old job because that is their comfort zone. Perhaps they think the person who replaced them isn’t good enough. They may know that they need to let go of the old job, but their replacement is not as experienced so they get involved and undermine the confidence and authority of their people.
  • There are managers who use micromanagement as a tool to terminate an employee.  They create standards that an employee is unable to meet and then feel justified in terminating the employee—instead of implementing a performance program to honestly measure an employee’s performance.

For each of the people and groups on your list, identify why you micromanage them.

The Patterns

Now look for patterns in your answers to the 5 Ws. The patterns will help you understand your micromanaging behavior.  The patterns tell you what triggers your micromanaging, give you an idea of what you really need to work on and where you may need to get some help to stop micromanaging.

Related Posts

Beware of Micromanaging

Micromanagers are like Vampires – They Drain Your Company of its Lifeblood


Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

Posted in Leadership, Management, Organization Development (OD). Tags: . Comments Off on So You Do Micromanage – At Least Sometimes

Micromanagers are like Vampires – They Drain Your Company of its Lifeblood

Kevin P. Dincher

In its 2013 State of the Global Workforce report, Gallup called engaged workers “the lifeblood of their organizations.”  Companies with the highest levels of employee engagement have significantly higher productivity, profitability and customer ratings, much lower turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents than their peers and competitors.  If that is true—and who am I to argue with Gallup?—then one of the ways to drain your company of its lifeblood is to micromanage your workers.

Lately I have been hearing quite a bit of  chatter—complaining, really—about managers who micromanage.  Apparently, people do not like being micromanaged.  Top executives and star performers find it insulting, and anyone with any sort of a positive work ethic finds it stifling.  Being micromanaged tells them that their managers do not trust their work or judgment—so they shut down.  They stop making suggestions, and they stop doing their best work.  They put in time but little else.  Moreover, their apathy is contagious, affecting not only their own productivity but also that of their colleagues.  Micromanaged employees easily become disengaged.

In CEOs:  Beware of Micromanaging I borrowed six questions from The Consequences of Micromanaging that managers can ask themselves to get a sense that they might be micromanagers.

  1. Do I spend a considerable amount of time telling employees how to do a job correctly and specifically telling them what to do?
  2. Do I devote a lot of time to overseeing the projects of my subordinates?
  3. Am I irritated when subordinates make decisions without consulting me first?
  4. Do I sometimes wish I were back in my previous lower-level job?
  5. Am I the one who signs the checks?
  6. Am I spending more time with operations then planning my company’s strategy and growth?

If you answer YES to two of these questions, then you are probably micromanaging your employees and may need some help to get out of the micromanaging trap.  But let’s take this mini-assessment a little further.

autonomyLevels of Management and Autonomy

Like many things in life, micromanaging is not all-or-nothing; it is not a case of either you micromanage or you don’t.  There are levels of micromanagement.  Another way to think of micromanagement is the degree of autonomy (and the power and authority that go along with autonomy) that your employees have to do their work.  At one end (Level 1) is total micromanagement; employees have no autonomy at all.  At the other end (Level 5) employees have the highest level of autonomy.

Assess Your Level of Micromanagement

Think of just one routine project that you tasked a staff member or work group with recently.  Do not pick an unusual situation that necessarily demanded a higher than routine level of involvement from you—like work you assigned an intern or a new and inexperienced hire.  And don’t pick some out of the ordinary and highly critical situation.  Stick to something routine.

Now, thinking about just this one routine project, read the descriptions of the degree of management and autonomy operating at each level combination of management and autonomy — and identify which level explains your management of that project.

Level 1

Level 1 is pretty much the zenith of micromanagement. Employees have no autonomy at all. You keep all the power and authority, and you control all aspects of the project. You assign the project, and tell your workers what to do and how to do it. The employees may (or may not) be tasked with doing some research on the project—but they do not make any decisions or have any input into what will be done They report their research to you so that you can identify possible alternative courses of action, decide what will be done, and tell them how the work will be done. You monitor every aspect and detail.

Level 2

Level 2 is slightly, but significantly, different from Level 1. You still hold the power and authority to make all decisions.  You monitor and control all aspects of the project.  However, you allow your employees some input into the decisions you make. The employees do the needed research, identify alternative courses of action and maybe even suggest a preferred one for implementation. You decide which one to implement and how.

Level 3

There is a significant difference between Level 2 and Level 3. At Level 2 employees have input, but at Level 3 they also have power and authority to make decisions.  You, however, retain the power and authority to approve or disapprove any and all decisions before they can act. The employees do the research, and they decide which course of action they intend to take. They report to you—and wait for your approval before taking any action.

Level 4

At Level 4 you take a major step away from micromanaging. At Level 4 you hand over real decision-making power and authority to employees—but you hold on to the power to “put on the breaks” at any time. The employees do the research, report what they intend to do—and move forward unless at some point you say “no” or “stop.”  Of course, things can get very tricky here: your employees need to know ahead of time what might cause you to say, “no” or “stop” as the project moves forward so they don’t find themselves wasting time, energy and resources heading down a blind alley. Better work on those communication skills if you are going to ease up on the micromanaging!

 Level 5

Level 5 is where you really stop micromanaging. You communicate the desired goals and outcomes, the time constraints and the available resources—and then let the employees run with the project. They do the research, develop a plan, take action, and periodically update you on progress. They get help from you when they have questions or when they run into obstacles (because good managers remove obstacles). They give you progress updates, but the project is in their hands. Level 5 is the point where employees feel they have “arrived”. They work on their own and take full responsibility and ownership for their work and projects. They feel that they have earned your trust. They do their best work and are at their most creative and innovative.

One Swallow does not a Summer Make

So, where did the project you were thinking about fall on the scale of 1 to 5? Since you should never assume something is true just because you have seen one piece of evidence for it, select three or four other projects and do the same assessment.  (And, of course, if you are truly serious about getting a handle on your micromanagement, ask some of the people who work for you to do the same assessment from the perspective of the level of autonomy they feel they have when you give them work to do!)

Is there a pattern in your assessment?  Are you generally somewhere in the range of Level 4 and Level 5?  If so, then you are doing pretty well when it comes to micromanaging– and just need to learn who to be more consistently at Level 5.  However, if you are generally in the range of Levels 1, 2 and 3 – well, you need to consider that you may be standing in your employees’ way and need to take a step back so your company can move forward.


Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

Posted in Leadership, Management, Organization Development (OD). Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on Micromanagers are like Vampires – They Drain Your Company of its Lifeblood

CEOs: Beware of Micromanaging

Kevin P. Dincher

A marketing consultant I know posted on his Facebook page today:  “Always wonder why some CEOs would rather diddle with things on a web page or other marketing minutia than deal with really important business strategy issues or building a company team.”  While I know this was more an expression of his current frustration with a client than a real question, it got me thinking—and I suspect the answer may be relatively simple:  Entrepreneurs stay in startup mode too long.

Entrepreneurs are by nature doers, and while in startup mode they are directly involved in just about every aspect of their companies.  That is how their companies are born, succeed and grow.  As a company grows, however, its leadership needs change, and some entrepreneurs have trouble shifting gears.  They find it difficult to shift from doing to leading, and so they become stuck micromanaging.  The problem is that micromanaging by a CEO can mean the downfall of a young company.

Micromanaging Kills

When CEOs micromanage their staff and subordinates, productivity and creativity suffer.

  • Having control makes people happy; but employees who are micromanaged rarely feel they have control over their work. Unhappy employees are less productive and less creative than are happy employees.
  • Micromanagement tells employees that you do not trust their work and judgment. When they realize that you are not listening to them, they shut down, stop making suggestions, and stop being straight with you.
  • Micromanaged employees become disengaged. They resent your role as manager and do not become proficient at doing their jobs. They lose the willingness to make sacrifices; they put in time but little else. Their apathy is contagious, affecting not only their own productivity but also that of their colleagues. Micromanaged employees become confused and angry, and they suddenly quit, going work for another company.

Additionally, the more that CEOs micromanage, the less time and energy they have to give to the critical work of a CEO.  If a CEO focuses on tactics, then no one is attending to vision, direction and strategy.  If a CEO keeps busy with day-to-day operations, then no one is taking the long-range perspective.  If a CEO is spending time telling employees exactly how to do their jobs, then no one is inspiring and motivating them or building a company team.

Are You a Micromanaging CEO? 

Ask yourself six questions (The Consequences of Micromanaging).

  1. Do I spend a considerable amount of time telling employees how to do a job correctly and specifically telling them what to do?
  2. Do I devote a lot of time to overseeing the projects of my subordinates?
  3. Am I irritated when subordinates make decisions without consulting me first?
  4. Do I sometimes wish I were back in my previous lower-level job?
  5. Am I the one who signs the checks?
  6. Am I spending more time with operations then planning my company’s strategy and growth?

If you answered YES to two of these questions, then you are probably micromanaging your employees.

One Antidote to Micromanaging:  Delegating

One antidote to micromanaging is learning to delegate.  Delegation is a critical skill both for personal success and for the success of the company you lead, and I have written before about the importance of delegating and about what delegating is and what it isn’t (Are You a Work Hoarder; The Beginning Delegator; and Know Why You are Delegating).  Like any other leadership skill, you can’t acquire it by reading a book (Leadership is Like Skiing:  You Can’t Learn It by Reading a Book).  You might intellectually understand delegating after reading a book or an article, but that doesn’t mean you can do it. You have to unlearn old habits, default reactions, and assumptions about human nature in order to adopt new and different choices and behaviors.  That takes time and effort—and you may need someone to help you.

Some Things to Start Doing Now

Even though it may take some time for you to develop your delegating skills, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do in the meanwhile.  Here are three simple (but still challenging) things you can do to start curtailing your micromanaging.

  • Pick your battles. Let go of the minutia. There are more important things for you to obsess over than a logo, the colors on your website, or how many power outlets you need in your booth at a trade show. When you are hunting big game, don’t swat mosquitoes.
  • Stop making purchasing decisions. Obviously, controlling costs is essential to the success of any business—but a quick and easy way to alienate your employees is to micromanage purchasing decisions. Instead, figure out what dollar amount you’re comfortable with for a particular project and allow team members to make financial decisions on their own as long as they stay within the budget.
  • Let people meet—without you. Often micromanaging CEOs aren’t comfortable with their people meeting without them. Rather than just attending strategic meetings, micromanaging CEOs sit in on (and control) tactical meetings. Let your people meet without you—and without needing to get permission from you to meet. Instead, get a weekly briefing from department heads or project leaders.

Related Posts

Micromanagers are like Vampires – They Drain Your Company of its Lifeblood

So You do Micromanage – At Least Sometimes

Are You a Work Hoarder?

The Beginning Delegator

Know Why You are Delegating

Leadership is Like Skiing:  You Can’t Learn It by Reading a Book


Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

 

Posted in Leadership, Management, Organization Development (OD). Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on CEOs: Beware of Micromanaging
%d bloggers like this: