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Micromanagement can prompt teams to perform below their required levels and even bring a business “to a half”, EMCS Tax and Advisory Director Silvan Mifsud explained in a blog post on Wednesday.

As a result, business leaders are urged to delegate, the process through which their authority and powers are divided and shared amongst others in order to shift part of the workload away from them.

While most business leaders in theory know that this is an integral part of leading their organisation as it helps employees grow and “create a collaborative, empowered and productive teams”, Mr Mifsud noted that in reality, it is a different situation.

Silvan Mifsud / LinkedIn
EMCS Tax and Advisory Director Silvan Mifsud / LinkedIn

“When faced with real workplace demands, it can be tough to put this into practice. Many of my clients say things like ‘I’m the only one who can do the job’ or ‘if this project doesn’t go smoothly, the company will suffer’”, he said.

“Many business leaders are so afraid that their employees will make mistakes that they try to micromanage everyone. I always repeat that I am fine with mistakes, as long as we try to always do original ones,” he continued.

Mr Mifsud explained that it can seem “almost natural” for managers and leaders to step in and help a struggling team member. Despite this, he also remarked that whatever the purpose, even if the “road to micromanagement is paved with good intentions”, whenever leaders “over-function” by keeping too many tasks, their teams end up suffering and can potentially “bring the business to a halt”.

Following this, he proceeded to point out four key strategies business leaders should put in place to facilitate the delegation process.

Firstly, there needs to be a shift in mindset from that of a “doer to a leader”. Mr Mifsud said that the best doers tend to be promoted to leadership position, a move that “comes with the assumption that they would magically shift from being good at and motivated by performance excellence, to caring deeply about developing others’ potential”.

The shift in mindset could prove to be “the hardest part” of the process, he noted, before adding that this can be facilitated by choosing to resist the “quick dopamine hit” that achievement results in, in order to instead gain the “greater fulfilment of having helped others improve”. Additionally, business leaders need to clearly understand their own leadership style, and have the mental strength to opt against stepping in when it is not needed.

Secondly, Mr Mifsud pointed out that business leaders have to “embrace the discomfort of the learning process”.

“Many leaders tell me that after witnessing an employee falter, pulling back the work and responsibilities from the faltering team member was the most logical and supportive thing to do. Yes, this creates discomfort for both leader and employee because it’s a new way of working for everyone,” he explained.

In order for business leaders to fully embrace the learning process, they first have to “normalise being uncomfortable” and then “reframe the situation and understand that an employee’s struggle is the best way for them to learn”.

Additionally, business leaders need to outline the importance of certain tasks.

“Leaders often tell me they remain stuck as doers because employees make too many high-impact mistakes that require intervention. But this usually happens when the bosses themselves hold on to all the work for far too long and are then forced to delegate at the wrong moment,” Mr Mifsud said.

“The key is to instead hand off tasks when the stakes are low and missteps tolerated, or even expected,” he added. In order to know which tasks are ideal for delegation, business leaders need to consider ones that feel easy yet would be “good development opportunities” for those on their team.

Lastly, business leaders need to give room for “compassion and grace”. While this does not mean tolerating poor effort or careless mistakes, it signifies “offering understanding and accommodation in the face of someone not doing exactly how you would do it, but still moving forward”, Mr Mifsud said.

“At the end of it, a good leader is a person who has the courage to delegate to colleagues and team members even if it means watching them struggle. That’s the only way that all of us, leaders and employees, will grow,” he concluded.

Mr Mifsud has worked at EMCS Tax and Advisory for more than five years, where he initially joined as Senior Manager of Business Advisory Services, before he was promoted to his current role as Director of Advisory Services. He holds a Master of Business Administration in Financial Management and Business Transformation at University of Reading, and a Bachelor of Commerce in Banking and Finance from University of Malta.

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