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Updated 29 Feb 2020

Sage’s Steven Cohen on getting out of your staff’s way

Managers are often too disruptive, says Sage’s Steven Cohen. Instead of empowering employees to do their best work, they just get in the way. Successful managing often means letting go. 

GG van Rooyen, 09 December 2015  Share  0 comments  Print

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Speaking at a recent Suits & Sneakers event (a local series of events that’s similar to the popular international TED talks), Sage MD Steven Cohen said the following: “You’ll often hear people say that, if you want something done properly, you just have to do it yourself. Managers often say it in an almost boastful way.

“The truth, however, is that it is nothing to be proud of. If you feel this way as a manager, it simply means that you haven’t trained your people properly. You should never need to micromanage.”   

Related: Why it’s great to be an SME owner


Micromanaging is a bad idea. As a manager, you want to employ the best people, train them well, give them the tools they need, and then step aside. You need to trust your team to do what they’re good at.

Get out of the way

According to Cohen, managers have a tendency to get in the way. “A lot of managers just waste time. They get in the way. They should instead just allow their employees to get on with the job at hand.”

There is an obsession with meetings, believes Cohen. “The people who actually do the work don’t have time for meetings. Meetings are terrible time wasters. What’s the point of endless meetings?

“South Africans have a real can-do attitude. They get things done. When it comes to our cloud offering, we were able to put something together with a team of four that required a team of 60 in the UK. SA has great workers; managers just need to empower them, and then let them get on with things. Don’t micromanage and don’t set endless meetings.”

Managing is about employing the right people, and then having the faith in them to let them manage themselves. If constant management is necessary, there is a fundamental problem with the business.

Related: Be self-aware as a leader

“If you’re doing your job right, your employees should know more than you do. As a manager, you should have a high-level understanding of the business, but your staff should understand the details of the operation. As a manager, you should make yourself almost redundant.”


  • Trust your employees. Train them, give them the tools they need, and then step away. Don’t micromanage.
  • Stop scheduling endless meetings. Time spent in meetings is time not spent on actual work. If eight employees hold a one-hour meeting, you’ve just lost eight hours of productivity. 
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GG van Rooyen

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