By Bryan Orr
Managing day-to-day operations of a business can mean making sure a thousand different tasks happen every week, often by many different people and sometimes at various locations. The tricky part comes in when you want to manage all of the tasks, people, and processes adequately without becoming the dreaded micromanager.
Instead be a macromanager, use tools to keep tabs on the details so that you can spend most of your time looking at and planning for the big picture.
Being a small business owner makes it more tricky because you don’t have the benefit of big corporate processes and department heads to hold accountable for their segments. If you add a fast growth curve on top of that, you have a recipe for disaster. Or at the very least some very cranky customers.
I’ve found that there are some great ways to be a macromanager and keep tabs on what is going on without being a micromanaging monster and killing the motivation of your employees.
Change Your Primary Communication Channel
We have a distributed team of 25 technicians in the field and other staff who work from various locations such as: the office, the home, maybe even from a beach in Maui. I don’t care WHERE they work from so long as they can do the job they have been hired to do.
If they were all communicating with one another via phone, email and text as their primary methods, I, as their manager, would have no clue what was going on. That is why we use Slack as our primary communication method. Within Slack we can chat like text, share files like email and collaborate on projects and tasks in separate channels to keep it all organized; but the coolest part is, I can check on the health of the entire organization with a few swipes on my phone without asking for a meeting or making a phone call or searching through hundreds of emails/texts/voicemails scattered all over.
I can easily step in the conversations if I see something terrible is about to happen, as well as reach out with a timely encouragement when someone made a great decision or thrilled a customer.
Move to IP Phones
There are many good reasons to move to an IP phone system, but my favorite is the ability to record phone calls. This means that when we get a customer complaint, or a misunderstanding occurs, I can listen to the actual call. Now before you go all “big brother” with the accusations, hear me out. This is about supporting your team, not being critical. More often than not, when I listen I find the matter was handled properly by our team. This allows me to talk to the customer and deal with the issue without even bothering the employee about it. If our team member did make a genuine mistake, the conversation can be about specifically what was said without relying on hearsay or accusations.
When an important project is being worked on I like to use the virtual Kanban board to track the progress. This is a simple method for your team to make updates on a project and move it from ‘To-Do’ to ‘Doing’ to ‘Complete’. When you use an online tool like Trello to manage your team’s projects using a KanBan approach you can always keep tabs on the progress of your projects without the constant “how’s it going” emails back and forth.
Use Email Differently
Sometimes email does make sense, especially when you haven’t yet made the switch to an alternate primary communication method. If you are using email regularly I suggest looking at the Boomerang plugin for Gmail. It allows you to schedule emails so you can send out that email at 11PM when you are thinking about it and set the delivery time for 8AM the next day when the employee is working. You can also set emails so that Boomerang will resend them to you at a time when you are ready to act. This a great way to ensure that you won’t forget about that important email that was sent to you at 11PM by the customer who doesn’t use Boomerang.
Technology affords an incredible opportunity for managers and business owners to know what is going on inside the business without the need to interfere on a regular basis. It also gives everyone the feeling of being supported without being micromanaged and demoralized.
Who knows, maybe you can be a macromanager after all.