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Overcoming micromanagement

Luke Szyrmer June 1, 2021 77

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My name is Luke Szyrmer, and if you are new here, I am the author of the book Align Remotely and I help teams thrive and achieve more together when working remotely. Find out more at alignremotely.com. Today‚Äôs episode features Rowan van Dijk, a leadership consultant who identified and overcame his own tendency to micromanage his teams.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Why relationships are critical to being effective as a leader
  • How to let go, when you know that you’re holding back your people
  • How your staff reflect your leadership style, and why they’re critical to your own growth
  • How to empower the people who work for you

About Rowan Van Dyk

Rowan Van Dyk is a consultant and small business owner who works with large corporations. He is an International Best Selling author on the topic of leadership. In particular, he helps leaders let go of micromanagement, having successfully overcome this foible himself as a manager and leader.


Rowan van Dijk, welcome to the managing remote teams podcast. So

thank you.

Could you say a few words about how you got interested in leadership and in particular relational leadership?

Okay. I’ve done many things in my life or I’ve played in bands and I was in the air force and I studied electronics and worked on fighter jets and all kinds of things, but was never really keen on getting my hands dirty and full of hydraulic fluid and all kinds of other things, , 32 years ago.

I got involved in a retail corporation and worked my way up to store manager and eventually the area manager. So moving sort of transition into the managing people arena. And for years I was a typical manager. I was in charge was my rules. You did what I told you or discipline or get rid of you because I had the authority and the power to do that.

And. About 22 years ago, I through a number of political changes, like affirmative action and all kinds of things, which is all the employment equity in South Africa. I ended up at the bottom of the food chain and once again, she put into a position where I had to start my own company at that stage of the really moving to training and been involved in training and corporate and retail training.

And when I started my company, I very soon realized that my management style of being the boss and micromanaging it, wasn’t going to work. And I started digging around and finding out and chatting to a number of people, reading the likes of John C. Maxwell and Kenneth Glenshaw and Brian, Tracy, and all these guys and make the Simon Sinek and eventually realized that.

Yeah, there was a reason why I wasn’t happy with the way things were great because I wasn’t leading. I was actually managing.

So why relational leadership? Where does that come?

As I’ve grown older and you’re a head of family and our children and grandchildren, the rest of it, I’ve come to realize that everything is about relationships and to create a relationship.

You eventually develop trust. So it starts with firstly being honest with yourself and with the people. Being open, communicating effectively and showing genuine concern for the people that work for you. And eventually now you develop relationships and live that you, your trust and that sort of spoke on.

And then I found out that life was suddenly a lot easier. I didn’t have to keep people’s, wants to get things done and threaten them with dismissal and all kinds of other things. They did it because they wanted to do it. And they, we had a relationship and that’s where the relational leadership came from.

When did you realize that this relational element is so important in terms of the aha moment?

Yeah, there wasn’t really a definite aha moment or light bulb moment. It was, it transitioned into it, but it effectively started. And once I. I had my own business. Yeah.

Previously it was easy. I could explain to my superior or my director or my manager, the vice reporting to Y I could justify firing the person with discipline the person and I could pass it on. But the minute I owned my own business, I was the last stop. And I suddenly had to start dealing with these things.

And then I realized two main things. And the one was that I was still trying to be a drill Sergeant and tell people they have to do it. Then I kept having to discipline them. I kept having to shop at them and I kept that, threaten them because they weren’t making the sales because they weren’t doing what they were supposed to be thinking. We weren’t delivering on the projects. That was the one thing.

And then the other thing that I realized that went along with it, the problem that I had, and I still from time to time, need to work on it and remind myself of it is I was micromanaging everybody. Because I didn’t trust these skills. I was doing it myself and doing most of myself and that made me stressed up. And because I was stressed out and tired, I was short tempered with it.

And then eventually I realized that yeah, if I start giving them a bit of room and I, the reason I was micromanaging is because I wanted them right the first time, I didn’t want somebody to make a mistake, but in time and speaking to people, I realized that,

it actually started me with talking about riding a bicycle. And I say to this person, yes. You know what my father wants told me that you have to follow for bicycle seven times before you can ride a bicycle and look at all my scars or my knuckles and my knees from, we actually had a bicycle in the person who says, Oh, so you didn’t ride the bike for the first time.

I thought that, what was that coming from? Why didn’t anybody else to ride the bike? Which was that? Nothing. Okay. And that sort of a transition spot from me.

A lot of times, you need somebody looking in through the window and saying, where’s this where’s that? Why is that not happening? Are you doing this? Why are you doing it this way? And that then creates a form of self reflection, which is summing up what happened to me in the process.

I realized that I needed to change.

And eventually cottoned onto this idea that the problem is that I don’t have proper relationships. And then started looking at building a relationship. Was a bit funny in the beginning because I thought I was talking about office of phase, but otherwise, yeah.

When you say micromanaging, what specifically was something that, that you were doing and then you stopped doing?

I had this attitude of I know how to do it better than you. I can do it faster than you. So I’m not going to get you to do it. I’ll teach you how to do it. I’ll just do it myself. And I know it’s done and I know it’s done properly.

I learned my lesson with that in that period. What happened as well as my son was in high school and he offered to mow the lawn for me, one day, I was very pedantic about how my loan had to be murdered and how the images had to be trimmed. And. Everything in that, sir, I was saying, do this. Yes.

He knows. Don’t worry, but I do it this way. Then he knows. And then after a while I came up and he wasn’t doing it the way I wanted to speak, man, let me just do it myself. And I know it’s done properly and he’s never mowed the lawn ever since then again. And that was 16 years ago. That was one of the areas where I realized that you can’t do everything yourself, even though you think you’re the best.

It was difficult for me because I’ve done that for many years to now go and say, okay, you know what, let me take some time and I’ll show you. I know I’m going to lose a day or two now showing you how to do it. But in the long run, I’m going to save a lot of time, but not having to do it every week myself. So let me show you how to do it.

Then it came with me, allow you to maybe not do it as perfectly as I think I do it. And eventually you will learn. I have a guy that works for me that was always very interested in finances and I never thought he could really do it. Then I had a bookkeeper that, things didn’t work out with. And I had to let her go and talk to myself one day. He wants to do it. Let me see. if he can do it. Unfortunately now I’ve created a monster because now I get my knuckles rapped every time I don’t end my slips in do things that way I’m supposed to, but it’s by allowing to learn and him wanting to learn, eventually it developed to a point where he did that and he became better.

And one of the things I talk about in building relationships is empowering other people. And actively, if you look at the different mission of empowering, it means that you’re teaching somebody to do something as well or better than you do it. And I need to constantly remind myself we are creatures of it.

Yeah. We fall back into something very quickly. We’re not brought to it, sir. I have a sort of a business mentor type. There’s like people the main, but it’s somebody that I bounce things off. And I got a number of people that I contact regularly in a certain I have coffee, even if it’s virtual coffees with the same.

Yeah. Just talk to me this and this and this. I feel like I’m turning off the bus and it’s, I’m not appointed. I need to help other people, sorry. Yeah. Just help me to stay on the strength in there as well. So it,

basically, for me, it got to a point where I had to Understand that I had a problem and I needed help, even though I did most of it myself, because I got input and I got advice from other people, which is the same approach that I now try and think.

And as I said with the micromanaging, it was a question. Nobody did it as well as I did. Nobody could do it as quickly as I did. So I just did it myself and I had to unlearn that skill.

So have you used that relational mindset back again in a retail environment since then? Like for clients or something like that?

I have, I don’t. Work so much in the retail space anymore because of the leadership, it’s broaden the horizons a little bit.

So I work in a number of industries. Some of them like the security industry is difficult because the security industry is basically a branch of the military and it’s about rank and about giving orders and following orders. I have used it in the retail space. It works, but old habits die hard. A lot of times they fall back on their old ways. If you’re not the monitoring it and coaching them along all the time.

So in terms of the mechanics of transitioning to more of a relational style, are there any particular shifts in mindset or things that need to happen first or is it just something that you explained and people can pick up.

It’s the nation, but there’s also a lot of personal experience, both introducing that to try and use examples and sharp people. But it’s basically, it’s a coaxing thing. You’ve got to sit on somebody and inside them, try and give them a blueprint to say, do this, do that. And the other that doesn’t work now, but just try it and see what happens. In the beginning, it’s awkward.

So the other challenge that you faced with, as well as that, it’s difficult, changing the mindset and creating relational leaders at junior and middle management level. If your senior leadership was loving to it. So they take it on for awhile and then eventually give up because they’re running into a brick wall. So it’s not easy,

another big thing that, we live in a society where mistakes are not a lot, but if mistakes that provide lessons and they’re all lessons learned volts experience. So if I’m allowing you. To make certain mistakes, obviously not to, throw my whole business under the bus, but if I’m allowing you to make control mistakes and I’m not punishing for you all going to trust me a lot more.

Could you a case study of somebody applying this, changing it. What’s the before and the after and the problems that are overcome?

Okay. One example that I have is the guy that’s cOO of an organization and as a bit of a military background.

So I’d also question if I say, so you do it and then question and it wasn’t Bethel in the beginning because we revert back to what we are comfortable with what we know. So it was constantly saying this, but what eventually happened is it was a bit tricky because the staff. And the team knew that I was working and they knew what I was doing because I was trying to involve in the process.

So I’d get private WhatsApp, so emails every now and then saying, it’s not doing in shouting at me is not the lie. It was bordering on a bickering session, but I then had to try and use this in a roundabout way. So in other words, I wouldn’t directly approach the person. Johnny found and said, you’re doing this again.

So I would say in there how’s this working and you tried this or no, have you maybe fallen back into the habit of doing dress, then I say what the person complained about and they’d say yes, but yeah, let’s work on it. So it’s not always you building a relationship as much as you building your relationship.

Your team is I’ve got to build a relationship with you.

I have to then also try and build up that relationship inside to them that I can’t jump down.

That person start icon, pushing him and slap him around. I’ve got to try and set the example. So it’s a challenge. If you’ve got somebody that’s been doing something for the last 15, 20, 25 years to not suddenly get them to change gears and go in the other direction.

It’s being three and a half years that I’ve not been closely working with this person on this organization, not just on the coaching side, there’s not other things that have come up in other areas that I train in that is not also. Come out of it. You can see over time, you see slowly you see the difference and you see the change. With this guy, we’ve actually become really good friends as well in the process.

The other day, I was speaking to another woman that works for him that has complained about all the previous employers. And one of them approached her and asked her if she wanted to come back for more money. And she said, she’ll never leave the perfect boss. She has not. So I’m assuming that there’s obviously the change has taken place, that they’re not happy with living then what’s second.

What about in the context of a project or projects where you need leadership and you need management, and there’s a group of people for a fixed period of time. How does that affect the dynamics in terms of the relationships needed to drive the projects in your opinion?

When it comes to projects, the biggest. Stumbling block. Usually we’re getting projects going is that the leadership needs to come out of denial. I need to admit that there’s a problem and they need help because if they don’t admit it and they don’t realize that the E’s an issue and they need help, then I’m going to, I nearly use the, you can edit this part out.

I’m going to fought against thunder. Maybe I’ll leave it then, because that’s effectively, what’s going to be happening is you’re going to be banging your head against the wall and getting frustrated. And you’re going to feel that what you’re doing is not working.

Yeah. Let’s face it. We don’t live in a fairytale world. Some work, some don’t work. Some I’ve had clients that say, yes, I want it. I need that. Come talk to my staff. And I said, no, but I need to talk to, come talk to my stuff and. It eventually falls flat because the kingpin, the main, the main leader doesn’t take on. They expect the team to change, but they don’t want to change and it’s not going to work. You’re not going to get respect and trust if you don’t earn it and you have to take the first step.

What are the, problems that you’re hired to solve in a company like you were saying before that? Yes. Yes. Come and talk to my people. What are what are customers hiring you for? It basically starts with they coming. Oh, do the leadership training come and speak to my people. My people are not engaged. They are not committed. They is no driving them. They’re not doing the styles I supposed to be doing.

They’re not, they’ve been taught to do certain tasks and they’re not doing it. And then immediate line now that the problem is not necessarily with the staff. The problem was, is where they’re needed. But I can’t now it’s a process of coming in and saying, okay, there’s this. And then usually when I make the proposal, as I can, we can do the following things, but I’m going to need you to do these things for me. And then nine guys in this. I really do. I say yes, because it’s a two-way street. It’s not going to work. If you, that you need to do the following for me, that I can get them to do the following. And in that way, I then eventually start engaging the leader.

I spent in the beginning with my training career, I spent training as a safe yeah. Junior and middle management. And it’s incredibly frustrating because you get them all hyped up and motivated and they go back to work. And three days later I realized that everything had workers the same, the boss is still the same and they just revert back to the old habits of watching the clock. And just as a guy being doing enough, just to collect the paycheck. So the change has to start with the pop. An example has to come from the PO and, but I need a foot in the door with outgoing.

The strategy that I use, I learned when I used to do retail training, where customer service is a very sensitive issue. I have somebody says to you regarding customer service training, your first question was what’s wrong with my customer service. But it’s not necessarily that there’s something wrong with your customer service or I have, certain intros to get in and to buy into it and to listen to me and trusting that I tell them the customer’s not always right.

And that type of customer may be important. And any reason you’re bossing too. And this is because he wants to make more money. And then, because that’s what it is. It’s about getting the people to come back. But what I used to do to get the training is if I walk into an organization that say, Mr.

MB, what beams customer service sucks. You need this he’s gonna kick me out of his business. Because nobody wants to know that the team is not good at, and I used to use the same tech that you come in via the side door, back door. So I used to walk around and watch and take notes and see they’re standing around not serving the customer, but they enjoying a candy bar or something or having a drink.

And they’re not supposed to and not wearing their name badge or the uniform is dirty or something to that effect that is functioning with the normal customer service practices. And then I would approach the Indian and say, I do customer service training. Yeah. What makes our training different?

Is we focus specifically on people standing on the floor, eating or people whose uniform was dirty or people not hearing the nine badges. We concentrate on those things. And then you usually turns chances. That’s the exact problem I’ve got this. Okay maybe I can help you. So he’s not admitted videos problem.

And that’s the biggest thing to get people to change their habits is to get them to admit that what they’re doing is not working. But we don’t always want to do that. We don’t want to look silly. That’d be ashamed of we all on things that are not working. So we need to get out of denial. We need to it’s the same as curing an alcoholic or drug addict or something. They need to admit that they got a problem because I need in Kenya.

How have things looked for your clients during lockdown during the last year, basically?

My sister’s daughter’s in the UK. She says they now in the third lockdown, they’re there. But you mean full seven, eight months. It was crazy. People were not there. And then I just say, you know what? It’s not that bad. My grandmother was in the second world war. She was in lockdown for seven years, six, seven years. And to make matters worse, they used to bomb them and shoot at them. If you say not shooting. So it’s a question of, yeah. You have to try and get them positive.

It was difficult for me because I had to contend with it myself as a business owner. But fortunately I don’t have a large organization and I have mostly free run, free lawns, people that work for me and I have two or three people, but the point is that I had to then try and still keep these people positive and stay positive myself.

I got a bit of a feeling of what they go through, but you have to keep other people positive and builds relationships with other people when it’s not going that well with yourself.

How do you create a context with the relationship that is positive? Is there any particular way you can approach it or think about it? That would be helpful

I push a number of factors. It starts off with identifying what you’ve done wrong. Forgive yourself like yourself, respect yourself, and then it’ll rub off on other people.

I know it sounds up in a refinery. Shared it out that stuff, but these unfortunately effect, it’s not always something that you can quantify, but it’s important if you start to like yourself and other people will then start to like you, because you will act more likable because you like yourself. You need to get to a point where you like yourself and if you start liking yourself, it’ll become easier to like other people. So you need to like yourself, and it’s not necessarily about agreeing with your point of view.

It’s not necessarily about thinking on your point of view, but I need to accommodate your point of view and I need to accommodate your viewpoints. When it comes to race, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, whatever.

So yeah, we have to use these catch rises. We have to embrace diversity. I know it’s easy to say. And of late, we’ve had a number of issues where we’ve seen the guy in that there’s not tolerance for one another in society and it causes major problems. So unless you’re working with. If there’s four of you and your quadruplets working in an organization that you look the same thing the same, and it’s not going to be, we sit with all kinds of diversity in the workplace.

If you’re a leader, you need to concentrate on eating and not judge. If that explains it. We look at blaming. We blame people to manipulate the blind people too, as a defense mechanism. But if we can get away from that, we stop blaming ourselves. When we stopped blaming other people and accept responsibility for our actions and our mistakes, then the other people will do the same thing.

And if we allow people to fall down every now and I came a couple of years back, I used the news article of my granddaughter when she was about a year old, she was starting to stand up and wanting to walk on the rest of it. And then she would struggle up and eventually she get that she stood upright and then she’d fall down again. And then everybody would cheer and then she’d stand up. And after a couple of days, she managed to stand long enough. And then I always used to ask the people to say, if that was you with your employees and they made a mistake, you fire them. Can you imagine my son, the first time my granddaughter fell down sick as a stupid child, who’s getting rid of it. Let’s get another one. We don’t do that. We need to learn to tolerate that also with babies and children and we accept a lot more. And then when they become adults, suddenly they’d be, they become idiots and they’re not good enough. And we need to punish them and discipline them in the rest of it.

So what’s the best place for people to find out more about what you do? What’s the best place?

I think LinkedIn is probably the base because then we can chat and when I’ve gone to sessions and then catch up that way, YouTube is primarily me putting out content and the website is also you’re getting information. also on my website there is a button or linked to booking a 15 minute checks or can do that as well if they want to.

I can just look up Rowan, R O w I N V I N D Y K. If they Google it, if you type in my name, I do occupy a number of pages, except there’s a very nice looking young goalie in the States.

Joanne van Dyke with her. She’s not Tyk. She’s the guy I am, but she doesn’t do what I do. I think LinkedIn would probably be the best option.

Okay, great. Thank you very much.

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