Many people have horror stories about working for a supervisor that micro-manages their work. While that may be a hellish experience, it is even worse if you are the executive officer of an organization that has multiple board members attempting to micro-manage you. Even if everyone on the board isn’t interfering, others may be providing tacit support or reluctant to oppose what they see as the majority will.

A few months back Ellis Carter provided some good advice about how to deal with a micro-managing board. In her view:

Sometimes, micro managing board members are infused with for-profit hubris. They intuitively feel that nonprofit management practices are inferior to for-profit approaches and take it upon themselves to lead the nonprofit to the light. More often, they just don’t know how else to add value.

One way to point a micro-managing board member in the right direction is to teach them.  Some suggestions include:

    • Engage the Board in discussions about how they can elevate the organization’s name and reputation and open doors that might otherwise be closed to the Chief Executive.Build agendas that focus on the big picture – mission, vision, values, what success looks like and how they will measure progress toward their goals.
    • Give the Board comfort by providing a financial dashboard that makes it easy for Board members to track the organization’s financial progress.
    • Adopt an annual budget and signature authority policy that gives the Chief Executive clear direction regarding his or her spending authority. Clear direction and delegation minimizes the number of times the Chief Executive feels compelled to go to the Board to “ask permission.”

There are more points to her list that run along the same lines.

Many of her suggestions don’t differ much in basic principle, only in substance, from those given to any employee faced by a micro-managing supervisor. The basic premise of this advice is to assure your supervisor that there is no need for their supervision by providing them with regular updates that anticipate their needs and concerns. Another common element is that you offer to take on projects that you and your supervisor mutually agree will be your areas of responsibility.

On the other hand, if you suspect you may be a micro-manager, you may want to read self-assessments like this one in the Harvard Business Review to learn how you can create a more constructive work environment.

About Joe Patti

In addition to writing for ArtHacker, I have been writing the blog, Butts in the Seats (buttsseats.com) since 2004.
I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)
I am currently the Director of the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts at Shawnee State University. Across my career I have worked at University of Hawaii-Leeward Community College, University of Central Florida, Asolo Theater, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Appel Farm Arts and Music Center and numerous other places both defunct and funky.

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