Back-off: Why Micro-Managing Doesn’t Work Online

By , Founder of the CEO Business School for Transformational Leaders

Solo-E Certified Solo Entrepreneur Expert

Tina Forsyth - Founder of the CEO Business School for Transformational Leaders

I’m generally not a big reader of business books, as I quite honestly find many of them boring (shh, don’t tell!). But for some reason I felt drawn to read Dan Pink’s latest book Drive – the book is about motivation and what drives us to do our best work.

I’ve been working from home now for 10 years, and in that time people have always said to me ” I could never do that, I simply wouldn’t get anything done!” This comment has always stumped me a bit, as I’ve never had any problem being motivated to do my work. I mean I get where people are coming from, as you would think I’d be tempted to watch talk shows and go out for coffee with friends (which I do from time to time of course, but not often).

After reading Dan’s book I get it… he has cracked the code of what really motivates us to do our best work. In a nutshell, here is what he says:

Extrinsic (external) motivation doesn’t really work – and yet this is the traditional model of motivation that ‘traditional’ management theories focus on. “I will motivate you by giving you a structured job, clear guidelines on how to do that job and rewards (usually monetary). And I will keep a close on eye what you are doing to make sure it’s done right.”

Intrinsic (internal) motivation is where most of us do our best work – this turns traditional management theory inside out, and essentially says that if you give people freedom to do their work they will be MUCH more creative, productive and satisfied. There are 3 key elements to intrinsic motivation – autonomy, mastery and purpose.

I just love the example he shares about Best Buy, and how they implemented a ROWE work strategy at their head office. ROWE stands for results-only work environment, and what they did is take away the requirements of time. People had no set hours to be in the office, they could do their work wherever they wanted and whenever they wanted. They just had to get their work (the results) done. It was a bit of a shift for people, but once they got used to it productivity rose dramatically and stress levels went way down.

Sound familiar? This is how many of us work as home-based (or virtual) business owners. We have the freedom to get stuff done wherever and whenever it works best for us – and as a result many of us love what we do (and can never imagine going back to a job – shiver).

Likewise, this is why so called ‘traditional’ management styles don’t work for online/virtual based business owners. I hear from OBMs and VAs on a very regular basis about how their clients are trying to micro-manage them – and how demotivating it is for them when this happens. “My client keeps hanging over my shoulder with every little thing.” I’ve seen many relationships fall apart for this very reason.

The thing is, in order to get the best work out of a virtual support professional – you need to give them freedom to do their work. Let them know what result you are looking for and a deadline to get the work done, and outside of that you shouldn’t have to do too much ‘management’ in the traditional sense. There is certainly nothing wrong with checking in, getting status updates and such, you just don’t want to micro-manage every little step. Super draining for all concerned.

If this is something you struggle with I invite you to back-off a bit. I know it can be hard to let go, and very tempting to always poke our noses in… however some freedom for your team may actually bring out the best in them.

A formerly overwhelmed entrepreneur and recovering control-freak, Tina Forsyth is passionate about helping conscious CEOs and entrepreneurs build a business that can run without them. As the author of The Entrepreneurs Trap and creator of the CEO Business School, Tina teaches transformational leaders how to get the right systems, team and leveraged revenue streams in place for profitable and sustainable success.  Tina also founded the International Association of Online Business Managers and is the creator of the Certified OBM™ Training– the only program of its kind to train high-end virtual managers.

© Copyright 2010 Tina Forsyth

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