December 19, 2014

Forget Micromanagement: 12 Team Techniques That Work

Entrepreneurs are a particular breed of people. They see holes in the marketplace that others have never seen; they compile practical solutions that can solve their future customers’ problems. Entrepreneurs can grow an idea into a vision worth implementing, recruit team members who believe in that vision, and truly create something that’s both innovative and profitable.

teamwork ants

Despite such characteristics, entrepreneurs also feel like they can do everything themselves — and, at times, that they should. Pitching meetings and press presentations are one thing, but setting schedules and sending tweets may be another, especially if you’re already paying people to fill those roles. There’s a difference between keeping a close eye on your employees’ productivity and breathing down their throats to make sure they meet their deadlines.

We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs, the following question to find out what their secrets to retaining their clients:

“How do you keep your startup team on task without becoming a micromanager?”

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Keep Up the Weekly Meetings

“I meet with my team members once a week to discuss progress over the past week and projects for the next week. We work together to discuss priorities and deadlines. We keep the projects short, taking no longer than 1-2 weeks each, so each team member can always see the finish line. With this approach, I always know what everyone is working on but don’t need to get involved on a day-to-day basis.” ~ Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh, Inc.

2. Powerful Project Management Software

“In startups, you often have to get down to the micro level, and can’t rely on general information when it comes to project status. My teams use Asana to track who is responsible for each deliverable, due date, and benchmark. The right project management software gives managers the micro-level detail without creating more work for the team.” ~ Kelly AzevedoShe’s Got Systems

3. Set Specific Deliverables

“Give your team specific deliverables and deadlines, and check in periodically to make sure the progress is on track. If it is, you can incent early completion. If the team is lagging, you can catch it quickly and find out why.” ~ Vanessa Nornberg, Metal Mafia

4. Always Share the Big Picture

“The more that I can influence my team to buy into the big vision that I have for my company, the better my team manages themselves. It’s important for a team to feel like their job really matters to the world and know how their actions positively or negatively affects others that they work with. Additionally, I like to give reminders about little details that are important for company success.” ~ Lawrence Watkins, Great Black Speakers

5. Set Goals Together

“The only way your employees will take ownership of the goals they are set to achieve is if they play a major part in coming up with them. Always set goals together with your direct reports. Never provide them with a list of goals you feel are “reasonable” and then ask them to go execute them. This will always yield better results and minimize your desire to micromanage.” ~ Warren Jolly, Affiliate Media Inc.

6. Keep the Fun Going

“Once the goals are in place, make and keep the journey fun! A startup is stressful, but if everyone is having fun while being reminded of deadlines and goals, it is a more enjoyable and productive journey.” ~ Nancy T. Nguyen, Sweet T

7. Run a Results Oriented Company

“I work primarily with contractors whenever possible so that I can focus on getting results, not assigning long lists of tasks. I’ve found that working with people on a per-project basis keeps them focused on the specific result that they’re working towards, which means that I can focus on my own work.” ~ Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

8. Is It Really Micromanagement?

“There are typically different stages to a startup: proof of concept, validation, efficiency testing, growth stage, exit. If and when you make it to the efficiency test, you will find yourself likely micromanaging. While you cringe at the thought, you actually are doing more than micromanaging, you are conducting massive time/motion studies to determine ways to increase profit. So chin up!” ~ Carmen Benitez, Fetch Plus

9. Create Templates

“For almost everything we do, there is a corresponding ‘how-to’ Google document that our team has access to. We generate a step-by-step process that includes how much time each step should take, the tools we use to complete it, and plenty of examples. That way, we don’t have as many little mistakes in the process that would require micromanagement.” ~ Caitlin McCabe, Real Bullets Branding

10. Keep the Team Small

“Micromanagement tends to happen when people don’t have enough to do. If your team is only as big as it needs to be, you’ll have less time to micromanage. Also, with a smaller group, the team will be easier to keep on task. So stay small and you’ll cultivate a lean, mean, productivity machine.” ~ Wade Foster, Zapier

11. Vision and Values

“Clearly define and articulate your vision for your company, and establish the values with which you expect your team to execute that vision. By setting the parameters upfront, you’ll be better able to develop a culture where people self-manage in line with your expectations.” ~ Michael Tolkin, Merchant Exchange

12. Set the Destination, Not the Journey

“In some instances, you need to have a process repeated to exact specifications. But in many other situations, the journey doesn’t matter as much as the destination. In those cases, give your team members a specific goal and deadline, but let the way to achieve that goal allow them to use their creativity. This gets you results, but keeps you from micromanaging.” ~ Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E®


Teamwork Photo via Shutterstock

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The Young Entrepreneur Council


The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

5 Reactions

  1. Great tips and strategies. I always coach my clients against micromanaging and it’s refreshing to see these views on even more ways to help entrepreneurs avoid the micromanaging pitfalls!

  2. I have always found that the best way to accomplish great things is to first start with the goal and then work backwards from that goal to figure out the daily/weekly/monthly/yearly activities that need to be done to support the achievement of that goal. Each day look at this document and figure out what you need to tackle today. This will allow you to always be in “productivity mode” compared to micro-management-do-tasks-for-the-sake-of-doing-them-reactively mode.

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