Deborah Sweeney - Let your employees do what you hired them to do Featured

8:01pm EDT March 31, 2012
Deborah Sweeney - Let your employees do what you hired them to do

If there is one thing running a business has taught me about being a leader, it is that you have to know when to step back and allow your company to run without constant meddling. Everyone has a story about that one manager who would check in every 30 minutes to make sure everyone was “on task” or the executive who seemed to have lost any human compassion toward people who weren’t sitting around a large, wooden table during a meeting.

Back in April, I was looking to hire a new salesperson to shore up numbers down on the floor. I had an interview in the afternoon right after my son’s baseball game and so I rush into the office in a baseball cap and jeans to meet a potential hire. I see a young woman, fresh out of college, in a pencil skirt, pinstriped blazer and new pumps.

She introduced herself, her name was Heather, and we talked about the position she was interviewing for and her previous experience.

Heather was a writer by trade and had been working for a small ad agency, but she said she just couldn’t handle it anymore. I couldn’t help but laugh as she described her bosses; two nasty egomaniacs that demanded employees beg for their office’s bathroom key and would pump the most horrible music out of the office speakers. It was a sad story, truly, but I just couldn’t believe that people like this existed. They sounded like fairytale trolls.

Personally, I’ve forged some of my strongest employee relationships simply by sitting back and letting them do what they know best. Part of this is really about trusting yourself to make the right decision. If you choose to hire a slacker, then you either have to hound them to make sure they work or fire them. I am running a successful business, so I know I’ve made more good choices than bad ones. If you’re in the same position with your business, chances are you’ve made quite a few good decisions as well.

Part of that success, at least in my case, was making sure I act as more of a guiding force than a totalitarian dictator. After putting in the amount of training that a new employee requires, the last thing I want is for them to run off because of something like a bathroom key.

Of course, that is an extreme example. But I do know other business owners who go home ripping out their hair because their employees aren’t following the strict guidelines they set out. Micromanagement rarely works. It just puts undue pressure on everyone involved.

I’m already running in and out of the office, meeting with aspiring entrepreneurs and trying to spread the word about my business. If I had to sit on the floor and coach people in sales as well, I’d lose my mind.

Heather, by the way, didn’t get the sales job. I made her head of our new social media department, a position she was much better suited for. I trusted my instincts, stepped back and let her blaze her own path in the office and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. So my sagely advice is to remember to not let your leadership position go to your head. Do what you do best. Run your business and give your employees the space necessary to make you proud.

Deborah Sweeney is CEO of MyCorporation Business Services Inc. She is an advocate for protecting personal and business assets for all consumers. With her extensive experience in the field of corporate and intellectual property law, Sweeney can provide insightful commentary on the benefits and barriers to incorporation, as well as who should consider incorporation and trademark registration. Sweeney received her juris doctorate and MBA degrees from Pepperdine University and is a member of the American Bar Association. She also serves on the Board of Regents at California Lutheran University. For more information, go to