A friend of mine, a manager at a mid-size manufacturing company, is about ready to give notice. She loves her job (and she excels at it, too), but she feels her hands are tied by a micromanaging CEO who gets involved in everything from negotiating rebates from suppliers to choosing conference room furniture. He is a helicopter CEO, always hovering nearby.
That Was Then, This Is Now
This is a common situation, unfortunately: the CEO started the company and at one time probably did everything from repairing equipment to customer service to negotiating with bankers, but times have changed. Now that the company has matured into, in this case, a $75 million business, the CEO’s role should be one of leadership: creating and communicating the corporate vision, putting the right people in the right places, empowering them, and encouraging them to take risks and be innovative in their work.
Another reason for micromanaging is the general belt-tightening prompted by the recession. With less wiggle-room, CEOs want to get involved in cost-cutting efforts, even at the risk of motivation and morale.
The Non-Verbal Messages
If the CEO won’t take the risk of delegating projects and then backing off, how can managers get the space they need to work creatively and take some risks of their own? Simply put, they can’t. When CEOs hover over managers and control their every move, they are sending these messages:
- I don’t trust you
- I could do this better myself
- You should always check with me before making a decision
Holding On Too Tightly
The paradox is that by controlling managers in order to prevent failure, the helicopter CEO is squandering countless opportunities for success by limiting and devaluing his or her employees. To keep people engaged and motivated, they need the chance to try things out, possibly fail, learn from their mistakes and move on.
In my next post I’ll share an example of how we did this at my former company.
© 2011 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved
Authors: Rick Pay, Paige McKinney