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Micromanagement is a 4-Letter Word

Posted by Stephen Lemire on October 6, 2011 at 2:10 PM

In a small staff association or community nonprofit the executive director, more times than not, is a specialist. What’s unique about the executive director’s role is that the specialty is being a generalist. The executive director, as CEO, can fill the roles of development officer, marketing and communications manager, event coordinator, and many others depending on the size of the organization.

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For the nonprofit and executive director to be successful (they are mutually inclusive), the executive director must have the autonomy, flexibility, and freedom to be creative, to take initiative, and to lead unencumbered.

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This does not minimize the fact that the executive director is ultimately accountable to the board of directors – and the members, if it is an association. The executive director is responsible for the organization’s assets, its employees, and how the organization is publicly perceived. In addition, the executive director must also report to other stakeholders and constituents such as an advisory board, donors, and policymakers.

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If the mission statement is the nonprofit’s destination and the strategic plan is the roadmap, the executive director needs to be able to have the freedom to choose which roads to take. A good working relationship with the board of directors is like having access to a GPS system to help navigate through the difficult parts of the trip.

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However, micromanagement of the executive director by the board president, the executive committee, or the entire board, would be like stopping to ask for directions far too frequently and when not even needed. This would result in the executive director shifting focus from the destination to the course, thus slowing the entire organization to a crawl.

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Would you rather have your executive director spending time documenting what has been done (keeping a travel log) or spending more time growing the organization and leading (searching for new and better routes)? Micromanagement takes time away from brainstorming, energy away from leading, stifles creativity, and causes resentment.

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As a word of caution to executive directors, these issues pertain to you and your employees in a small staff organization as well. Once an employee has earned your trust and established their abilities, you cannot expect to have optimal organizational success if you try to micromanage because they, too, will be wearing multiple hats and fulfilling many responsibilities.

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So, yes, the frustration of micromanagement will cause the executive director to utter many unprintable 4-letter words. Instead, leave the executive director to do some other important things which happen to also have 4-letters: work, help, save, and BLOG.

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Categories: Management, Nonprofits, Board of Directors

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