Are You Too Hands-On?

Nov. 13, 2023
Learn when to micromanage, and when to hand off tasks and responsibilities to your staff to create better workflow.

As an auto repair shop owner, it is easy to want to retain control of every aspect of the business. Sometimes, however, it is beneficial to hand off certain tasks or responsibilities to the staff. Not only does it free up time from the day-to-day operations of the shop, but it also helps team members grow professionally.

There are times when micromanaging is necessary. Such times occur with new employees or when new tools or procedures are introduced to the shop. It is important to pay attention to how the staff handles these new routines and see where you can loosen your grip on their movement. 

Identify Your Micromanaging Style 

When it comes to micromanaging, small business owners and managers tend to fall into one of three styles, according to organizational psychologist Barbara Trautlein, owner of Change Catalysts.  

"There's three different styles leaders have when they lead change," Trautlein tells Ratchet+Wrench. 

The three types are those who lead from the head, those who lead from the heart and those who lead with their hands. 

Those who lead from their head are often focused on business goals and objectives. This type of leader focuses on the "what and the why," Trautlein explains. 

Leaders from the heart concentrate on the "who." That is "how to take care of people," says Trautlein. "It's a focus on communicating, collaborating, engaging."  

"How" is the focus for managers who lead with their hands. The focus is on the plans, tools, processes, and training. 

"People who lead from the hands are most likely to micromanage," Trautlein finds. "They really want to get it done."  

That said, each style of leadership can result in micromanaging, and each has its benefits and disadvantages. There are times when each type can help a situation, though each approach can also cause friction with employees when used too closely or for too long. 

Know When to Micromanage 

Owners and managers have to gauge when employees need more guidance, and when they can be given more freedom. A quick assessment of each worker, or the group, can help determine how much management is right for the team. Trautlein refers to the Skill-Will Matrix, created by leadership consultant Ken Blanchard.  

The Skill-Will Matrix is a two-by-two grid with high- and low-will on the X-axis, and low- and high-skill on the Y-axis. If an employee has low skill and low will, they require direct supervision, tools, and training to build skills, plus encouragement. Guidance is key.  

A worker with low skill but high will benefits from coaching, guidance and training to bring the employee up to speed. Engagement to get an employee excited about tasks and responsibilities is helpful for employees with high skill yet low will.  

Workers with both high skill and high will require a lighter touch. This is an employee whom you can empower with some freedom and responsibility. You can delegate tasks, and even give this worker ownership of this area of work.  

Sometimes Shop Owners Micromanage to a Fault 

It is often necessary to manage your team closely. New employees need supervision to ensure they know where all the tools are, how to complete tasks and to be sure they are meeting all expectations. Once a worker gets up to speed on shop practices, it might be time to lighten that management grip.  

Micromanagement can lower employee motivation and morale. Trautlein calls it a vicious cycle when the leader micromanages. "The employee doesn't do activities anymore. Over time it creates and perpetuates the situation the leader doesn't want. (A worker) takes less ownership and accountability." 

Employees might feel like the manager doesn't trust them, or they may assume the manager is just going to do the task, so why bother?   

Lead Through Empowerment 

By empowering employees to do their jobs, and even take ownership of certain responsibilities, a shop owner can raise morale and encourage a smooth workflow. When workers take more ownership of responsibilities, a shop owner can then concentrate on the business end, or other tasks. 

Team members can take pride in their jobs when they have more leeway and responsibilities. They can also be encouraged to learn new skills and grow at their job.  

Shop owners and managers can gain insight into when employees need more guidance and coaching by asking questions.  

"The big thing is they observe their people and ask powerful questions to understand their needs, opportunities and issues," Trautlein advises.  

Managers can also ask themselves questions. "What's my intent? Why am I thinking about stepping in? What is the impact on that?" explains Trautlein.  

Sometimes the problem isn't an employee issue, but a system issue, explains Trautlein. Shop owners might look to evaluate the businesses' operations, communications, training and reward systems. Support and encouragement go a long way to leading team members without holding their hands too tightly. 

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