From “Bossypants” to Fearless – Micromanage No More

By: Indiana Small Business Development Center Last Updated: September 22, 2011

Written by Peggy Cenova

micro-manageI recently read Bossypants by Tina Fey– where her book humorously states “you’re no one until someone calls you bossy”. We all know a “Bossypants” and they are no one’s favorites. With a bit of self reflection however, you might find that as you have become a leader and a business owner you’ve become a “Bossypants” or even a micromanager. Is micromanaging a good option for running a company, department or a family? Many managers who have this tendency may come to it naturally; control is a part of their inner-being and letting go is as frightening as jumping off a cliff.

As an entrepreneur it is easy to realize that it is your money on the line, and those working for you have the ability to make or break your organization. However, it’s important to give bright, creative, energetic employees a strong sense of independence so they can use their talents to contribute to your organization. As your business grows, you will no longer be able to do it all yourself and having employees who are capable of carrying the load will become essential. Just as “helicopter” parents produce dependent children, hovering managers produce unfulfilled, unhappy, dependent employees.

Recently the state-wide organization leadership of the Indiana Small Business Development Center provided leadership training that specifically addresses coaching, leading, and improving organizations. This training encourages mentorship rather than dictatorship; goal setting rather than step by step managing; and rewards rather than punishments.

Here is a brief overview of how it works:

  • Establish developmental goals for each employee by assessing skills that need improvement. It is important that the employee be involved in choosing skills for improvement, and in determining the plan for advancing knowledge and use of the skill.
  • Once the skill (or skills) has been assessed, the manager and staff member should attain agreement on steps for improving the skill, and then as the skills are applied, the coach observes the staff member demonstrating the skill and provides appropriate feedback for continued improvement.
  • Repeat until competency is gained, assess the next skill to be improved, and continue for continual process improvement.
  • Appropriate feedback includes three parts – (1) what the staff member did well, (2) what they could have improved, and (3) how they would do it differently next time. It is best to have the staff member self-evaluate in addition to the manager’s evaluation.
  • In addition, asking for feedback of your coaching skills opens the discussion and can make you a stronger coach as your growth in managing continues.

Another version of this coaching method is called Prep-Do-Review (found on the Harvard Business Review blog Very much the same as our process, it encourages previewing an employee’s plans for execution, observing or receiving a report of the “doing” of the project, and finishing with a review of the process, indicating once again, what was done well, and what can be learned for the next time. Hill and Lineback (authors of the blog) encourage feedback regardless of the success or failure of the action.

Either of these plans gives the manager a means of interacting with employees that opens dialogue and coaching actions. Effective managers grow with their businesses, and with their employees. When properly planned and managed, delegation can be fearless and you can leave the “Bossy Pants” behind.

Peggy Cenova is the Regional Director for the East Central Indiana Small Business Development Center, an organization with the mission of having a positive and measurable impact on the formation, growth, and sustainability of small businesses in Indiana, and to develop a strong entrepreneurial community. Peggy can be reached at