Micromanaging Isn’t Always Wrong

Micromanaging is a tactic, not a style

Among the greatest misunderstandings in leadership and coaching is the word “micromanaging”. Most leaders do not want to be considered a micro manager. As a matter of fact, it could possibly be considered an insult or weakness of any manager. When micromanaging is used as a coaching or leadership style it will likely deliver negative end results, stifle creativity, limit team members’ self-worth and undoubtedly limit productivity.leaning in

On the other hand whenever a coach or leader must deal with a poor performer it is essential to help the employee either develop into a better performer or enable them to identify a job which is a more desirable fit. Leaders need to make the effort to be a coach that when needed, uses micromanaging activities in order to improve specific areas, but utilizes coaching skills when getting the group prepared to win.

Why micromanaging and coaching are frequently confused.

Micromanaging and coaching are commonly confused because from the surface, the activities and the leader’s involvement appear quite similar. The key difference is simply the manager’s intent and intended goals of their activity. Both need the involvement of the leader; specifying clear requirements, properly defined task management, accountability and a substantial time commitment from the leader as well as the employees. The difference hinges on the intention of these activities. For instance: a leader is setting expectations to assure there is thorough awareness of exactly what they expect from each and every employee in order to optimize efficiency and limit confusion:

A micromanager does this with the intent to set up boundaries and policies. A coach demonstrates his/her dedication to the team simply by holding everybody accountable.

A micromanager uses accountability to ensure the worker is earning their salary (oftentimes focusing on single employees vs. the group). A coach manages activities in order to ensure the employees are on the correct path and that they are in the most suitable position to be successful.

A micromanager utilizes the activities to justify effort or discipline. The micromanaging option is proved incorrect when a coach understands it is not the amount of time an employee contributes as much as it is the purpose and effectiveness of the time they contribute. The purpose of coaching is to develop and also prepare the workers to succeed using the leader’s knowledge and years of experience to direct the employees, not to justify actions.

Don’t be afraid of being a coach because you do not want to micromanage. Get involved and share the purpose of your actions with your group so they understand your goals for not only yourself, but also for them- which ultimately is the goal for success.

Every good coach must use micromanaging techniques.

studentAs stated, the primary issue with leaders and managers is they misunderstand what “micromanaging” is and is not. Micromanaging is a method of coaching (or ought to be); it is not a leadership style. Micromanaging should be used as a consequence of those workers which are not really fulfilling expectations or are poor performers. A bad performer does not necessarily suggest a bad employee (and definitely does not mean a bad person).

There are lots of employees that are not performing well because they are in the wrong job, not because they are bad people, or they are not doing what they are excited about in general, thus possess no desire to be successful. By micromanaging the specifics of this sort of an employee it enables the leader and the employee to make the best decision of what act need to be taken next.

When to micromanage and how long.

Let’s say there is an employee who appears to be unhappy and their activity and outcomes are not meeting expectations. The leader should get involved early on to determine if the shortcoming is a lack of desire or ability, or both. To help identify the issue, the manager should implement more disciplined expectations and activities and explain to the employee why this action is being taken in addition to the desired outcome. The desired outcome should be to either help the employee reach the expected activities, attitude and results or help them discover a role that is a better fit. These micromanaging activities should be short-term endeavors.

The leader needs to make assessments quickly and take on the continued concerns, which results in moving the employee out of the position. Consequently, the leaders should also take quick action to recognize great efforts and achievements as warranted. A leader should not have to implement a micromanaging activity for an employee for more than 90 days and can be stopped in as little as 30 days depending on the level of engagement, improvement and accountability, in addition to overall attitude and commitment of the employee.

Action item: Micromanaging is a tactic, not a style. When you have a poor performing employee, incorporate a performance plan of daily and weekly activities and micromanage those activities to help them move up in performance or out of the position that does not fit them. You owe it to them as their leader and coach

Why most leaders don’t like to coach.

All leaders, or at the minimum the majority of leaders, choose to avoid conflict. This is unfortunate as only in constructive confrontations and conversations can progress be made. It is all in the intent of the confrontation. If the purpose is to just belittle, or point out all the apparent issues with an employee, then yes that is a detrimental and useless conversation and understandable as to why one would want to stay clear of it. Nevertheless, in order to be an effective coach, a leader must approach confrontation with the objective of helping the employee.

It is absolutely impossible to coach without having confrontation and dialogue regarding areas of opportunity. When an employee is confronted by a leader who expresses the desire to help them achieve success, points out areas of opportunity for improvement and suggests a game plan to help them achieve such improvement, the confrontation just took the route of developing a plan for success. It is a win-win for both parties. Obviously at this point it is up to the employee to illustrate their desire for success and get on board, but it is also the leader’s job to micromanage through the issues until a satisfactory conclusion is in view. Is this hard to accomplish? It is, only if the intent is wrong. Is it required? Most definitely.

Concluding thought.

Not each and every hire is the right hire and not every job is the right job, but accepting either one just because it is easier is wrong. Micromanage through the issues by helping your employees either become great at what they do, or helping them to find something they will be great at. Outside of concerns with poor performing employees, your job as a leader is to coach your overall team to success.

We’d love to know what you think!  Feel free to leave us a comment in the section below.

Written by Heather


Heather graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a BSEE. Later, she received her MBA. As a mother of four wonderful children, she has found a way to balance her career with her role as Mom. After becoming director of engineering for a global engineering firm, she decided to start her own company. She is CEO of Select Power Systems, LLC.

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