Micromanagement: To direct or control in a detailed, often meddlesome manner.
My working definition is: The over involvement of a Board or Board members in the day-to-day business of running a community association.
After many years observing Boards of Directors, I believe the underlying reason why many micromanage is they truly have no idea what their role is in relationship to each other nor the community as a whole. I believe it is up to us as management professionals to guide Board members to a path of constructive stewardship. Constructive stewardship leads Boards away from destructive micromanagement. This serves not only the Boards and their communities, it serves management.
Long Term Solutions to Micromanagement: Leadership Development
Board Orientation: For new Boards and after every annual meeting – because development of constructive stewardship starts here. I know of many management firms that provide regular Board orientation – either right after the annual meeting (facilitated by an executive or senior, supervising manager) or annually for all their Boards at one large Community Leadership Forum – or both. And this isn’t only on the shoulders of the managing agent: all Boards should require their management firm (or on site manager) to provide orientation information, or access to Board Orientation through an independent facilitator.
Vision and Mission Statements
These statements give the Board and the community a solid platform for policy and decision making and give the Board focus – and that focus is on the larger issues of a good community, and how to get there. A Vision Statement should be a simple statement of what the Board wants for the community; i.e. "To be the best place for families to live.” The Mission Statement outlines how they will get to the Vision; i.e., "Our Mission is to provide our owners with an outstanding quality of life, promoting community and providing the most prudent, ethical, financially sound, team-oriented, creative, and state-of-the-art management within our capabilities.”
Vision and Mission statements help fight corporate memory loss: A major cause of micromanagement. Existing Mission and Vision Statements give new Boards an existing platform on which to build their own policies. Even if the Board intends to change existing Vision and Mission statements and move the community in a new direction, those existing statements are a baseline for this process of change. Board continuity and corporate memory are the exception rather than the rule. Loss of corporate memory sows the seeds for micromanagement and the dreaded reinvention of the wheel.
Board Policy and Procedures Manuals. With these documents, when a Board member doesn’t know what to do about a specific issue, they refer to the adopted manual and review the Board policy on that issue, or the larger issue at hand. Bingo! Micromanagement thwarted in its tracks!
Industry Programs and Information for Board Development
Despite what we know is a vast number of educational resources for Boards about Leadership Development, this is not the case in the minds of Board members themselves. We as industry professionals need to bring the new and existing Board members into our professional organizations. Attending industry functions not only gives Boards great information, it provides them the opportunity to network with other Board members (a terrific thing).
Executive awareness and intervention regarding micromanagement.
For the average portfolio manager, micromanagement can mean the difference between a 60 hour work week and a 45 hour work week. Executives must have awareness of each account and how much time is being spent on it and why. Any account that continually micromanages its manager is likely losing the company money by sucking out resources for which the account is not paying. The micromanaging account is also sucking the life out of staff, a root cause of manager turnover.
What does it all mean? Micromanagement promotes turnover, costing time and money. Ironically, micromanagers often believe are "saving money” for the community with their continual involvement, yet nothing could be further from reality: Micromanagement is a major reason for the turnover of community managers.
The suffering Board and the bleak future of volunteerism. Micromanagement is a debilitating behavior that is not only exhausting for the staff; it’s exhausting for the Board. And it impedes current and future volunteerism in the community: Micromanagers, overly involved in the day-to-day affairs of the community, give potential volunteers the absolute wrong impression about what the job of a Board member actually is, unintentionally killing volunteerism. Who wants to volunteer for an unnecessary full-time job?
I have provided some tools for the Board and executives to tackle micromanagement. I said this at the beginning of this article and I say it again: I believe it is up to us, as management professionals, for the good of managed communities as a whole, to guide Board members to a path of constructive stewardship and away from micromanagement as best we can. We need to be proactive in combating micromanagement because micromanagement can not only destroy the passion for the job, it costs money. Remember:
"If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.” - WL Bateman
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