Signs you may actually be a micromanager

Leader or micromanager?

Leadership can be defined as the art of motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal. But when does leading take on the ugly face of micromanagement?

Many business owners and leaders don’t realize that they are micromanagers. When we become business owners, we typically add new staff out of necessity. Everything else we’ll learn as we go…right?

What is micromanaging?

An extreme micromanager is the business owner or manager who excessively supervises the employees; even the smallest details have to be reviewed. Micromanagement to varying degrees is more common than you might think.

How are micromanagement styles created?

1)    Lack of trust: Lack of trust is one of the greatest factors in micromanagement. The leaders believe that no one can do the particular task as well as them.

2)    Fear of failure: Fear of failure can feed these behaviors. Staff might not realize how much is at stake.

3)    Being involved in every problem: Some believe that good leadership means “When my staff have a problem, they come to me to fix it.”

4)    Unclear expectations: Leadership development is not deliberate with clear expectations and measurable results.

Before you realize it, your staff becomes dependent on you to keep the business running. Regardless of the situation, as the business grows, at some point a leader’s bandwidth cannot attend to a vast number of tasks.

A company’s staff is one of your more valuable assets; sometimes we overlook the impact on morale by not giving individuals the autonomy to perform routine work. 

How to stop micromanaging your team

You need to take a leap of faith in your team. Recognize your fears. Share your desire to build an environment where you trust their ability make more decisions without your involvement every step of the way. Together, identify clear expectations between each of you.

As a Vistage Chief Executive Chair, I lead a group of high performing CEOs and business owners that create organizational cultures that challenge and entrust employees to exponentially grow their companies beyond any single person’s capabilities.

What have other CEOs done to stop micromanaging to create high performing teams? Start by looking in the mirror. Ask yourself these questions:

  • “What can I do to demonstrate my trust in team members?”
  • “How effectively am I hiring and retaining employees that align with the culture I am trying to create?”
  • What behaviors am I displaying or enabling that are preventing my team from rising to their fullest potential?”

Try the 100 List Exercise

Below is an exercise my Vistage CEOs found helpful to intentionally identify and reduce micromanaging habits.

Objective: Build clarity so team members can make more effective decisions by reducing dependency on the leader.

  • At your next staff meeting, ask your direct reports to create a list of at least 100 items that currently need your approval. Sit silently.
  • What is this list telling you about your micromanagement habits? Yes, you probably need to be included in the $100,000 purchasing decision. But do they really need to ask what flavor coffee to buy for the break room?
  • Now, let your team know you need their help. As their leader, it’s time for a paradigm shift. You hired them for their expertise and experiences. You want to empower them to make better decisions without always seeking your approval.
  • You rate each line item:

A = Only I can make the decision

B = You can make the decision after discussing it with me

C = You make the decision on your own

Challenge yourself over time to delegate more decisions to your staff.

  • Be honest and vulnerable. Ask your staff, “how else am I getting in the way of your success?” and “How can you help me recognize when I am micromanaging?”

Keep this open dialogue as an agenda item with your staff. When challenges arise, fight the urge to solve the problem. Instead, encourage the team to collaborate and find ways without your micro-involvement. Imagine how your workday will change when you can spend more time working “on the business” and less time caught micromanaging “in the business.”


by: Liza LeClaire, Vistage International

Photo credit: ID9928936 © Tamás Ambrits  |

Six Keys to Business Success

The Six Keys to Business Success

Running a business can feel like herding cats at times, with so many priorities vying for your attention every hour of the workday. Yet as with most things, the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, is something to keep in mind when making a conscientious decision on how to spend your time. Focus on those few things that will yield the greatest impact for your business.

  • Core Focus

The company WHY of who you are and where you are going must be clear not only with the CEO but across the entire organization. Every employee must have their personal Why defined. If an employee is not invested in where the company is going, their performance will slow the organization down. Some organizations call this Core Focus their Mission.

CEO Action Strategy: Host a team meeting to create and/or confirm the company vision and each employee’s as well.


  • Culture

The CEO is responsible for creating, exhibiting, and upholding the culture through defined Core Values created with the Leadership Team. All employees must understand the core values internally and externally adopt how they work together, with suppliers, clients, etc.

CEO Action Strategy: Do a survey of your employees asking their perception of the current company culture and how well the core values are implemented. Ask employees for involvement; create an employee committee to poll employees on how well the culture is reflected within the company and what the leadership team or employee committee can do to ensure the core values are implemented across the organization.


  • accountability

The CEO should ensemble a Leadership Team with department heads or division leaders to ensure the entire organization has balanced representation like the three-legged stool – Sales/Marketing, Operations, Finance (IT, HR, Admin, Accounting).

CEO Action Strategy: Meet weekly with the leadership team with a set agenda to celebrate successes, review the weekly business scorecard, review progress on strategic quarterly initiatives, discuss employee/client concerns and company issues, and hold each member accountable to follow-up agreed to by the team.


  • Leadership

CEOs must develop those around them in order for the company to grow; leadership team members need to continue to grow both individually and with each other or the company will “hit the ceiling” or outgrow its leaders. Utilize Assessments to help the leadership team understand and recognize their strengths and weaknesses and where the best use of their time is related to their “unique ability” – what they do really well – so they can help their direct reports do the same thing independently and together.

CEO Action Strategy:  Create a development plan in areas of soft skills and technical skills; hold each other accountable. Consider reading a leadership book and discussing the highlights together; some options include Good to Great, 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, Traction, eMyth, etc.


  • Long-term Goals

The CEO must determine with the leadership team where the organization needs to be in five years, 10 years, or longer. This group needs to be able to plan, predict, and execute to end up where they want to go. This ensures the business can maximize market share and stay ahead of the competition, while also providing clients with what they need and opportunities for employees to learn and develop.

CEO Action Strategy: Set aside a full-day off-site meeting with the leadership team for strategy planning to determine the long-term goal of the organization; perform a SWOT Analysis in detail that will help identify the multitude of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats the organization has to capitalize on. Determine what the strategic initiatives are that the leadership team needs to focus on every 90 days to reach the company’s long-term goal.


  • traction

The CEO and the leadership team must share the vision, long-term goal, how to get there, and what it means for the company and its employees to create buy-in and participation across the organization. This keeps everyone headed in the same direction and focused on the same goal.

CEO Action Strategy:  Host Quarterly Town Hall Meetings and share successes every 90 days with employees; remind everyone of the core focus, core values, mission, scorecard, trailing 12 months of financials, and refocus on the strategic initiatives for the next 90 days in order to reach your goals.


Remember that true leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders. Work with your leadership team to determine the main pillars of your business and then share them openly and often. When your employees know where the business is going and what’s in it for them, they are invested in the journey and the likelihood of reaching the destination together as an organization is infinitely higher. EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, provides clear concepts and practical tools to help take any business to the next level. Contact Christine Spray, a Certified EOS Implementer™, at [email protected] or 832-380-8224 or visit to learn more.


About the Author:

Christine Spray is a nationally recognized business development keynote speaker, best-selling author three times, consultant, trainer, coach and Certified EOS Implementer™. Spray serves as a CEO and business advisor with a passion for helping people and companies grow.


Photo credit: © Roman Samborskyi |