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Does Micromanagement Have a Place in Executive Leadership?
Micromanagement has a limited place in intelligent leadership. To avoid its destructive effects, leaders should set clear and quantifiable objectives and deadlines. They should also focus on offering continuous support and transparent, predictably paced feedback.
Micromanagement breeds distrust and resentment.
The Definition of Micromanagement
Micromanagement is a style of management that relies on excessive control and constant feedback and critique. Micromanaging leaders feel an almost compulsive urge to control every aspect of the work process and the activities and communications of their reports. A micromanager craves involvement in every detail, from the inception of a project to the end product.
“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do.” – Steve Jobs
The Negative Impact of Micromanagement on Employees
From the perspective of intelligent leadership, micromanagement carries a mostly negative connotation. As I have pointed out in my leadership development works, micromanagement can be the worst motivation-stifling factor. It can also sow suspicion, lack of trust, and discontent among the employees. It is most often the negative manifestation of the impact a leader’s presence can have on a team.
That said, micromanagement does have its place in executive leadership, albeit in limited, well-defined ways.
When Micromanagement Works
Well-rounded managers have to be able to switch between micro-and macro-management styles on demand.
A handful of specific situations require a micromanagement-based approach, but leaders may find themselves snared in a web of compulsive-addictive pseudo-rewards that micromanagement seems to give them.
Here are some situations that may call for micromanagement:
- The manager is dealing with new employees who haven’t yet mastered the skills their work requires. In such cases, keeping an eye on them, giving them frequent feedback, and requiring such employees to report back frequently is the right approach.
- Employees who make many mistakes and fail to improve may require periods of micromanagement to shore up their skills and alter their ways.
- Leaders of remote teams may turn to micromanagement to keep team members connected and facilitate employee engagement.
In every one of these cases, micromanagement is a temporary solution to a temporary problem. Leaders should never rely on it as their standard MO, as that is when the negative aspects of micromanagement come into play.
The Cons of Micromanagement
While its pros are limited in scope and number, the cons of micromanagement are numerous and far-reaching.
- Micromanagement implies that leaders don’t trust their employees. Such trust issues undermine employee morale, leading to poor engagement and productivity.
- Micromanagement takes power away from the employees. It teaches them to become overly reliant on management. Micromanaged workers learn to expect constant feedback and involvement from their superiors, failing to use their problem-solving abilities.
- Micromanagement favors short-term goals and insignificant details over long-term goals and an overarching purpose. Thus, it robs organizations of a compelling vision, inevitably leading to failure over time.
- Constant feedback and criticism can be distracting for employees. The workforce will find itself tangled up in a web of menial and ultimately meaningless tasks and details that clouds direction and hijacks focus.
- In the context of larger organizations, micromanagement is unfeasible. Leaders who resort to it under such circumstances needlessly hike the stress level of their employees.
- Micromanagement stifles creativity and initiative. It robs teams of problem-solving abilities and sows confusion among their ranks.
Micromanagement shackles creativity and empowerment.
Intelligent leaders strive to build efficient, empowered teams to whom they can delegate tasks safely in the knowledge that they can generate outstanding results. Micromanagement defeats this objective, reducing the workforce to a confused, erratic mess, unable to adapt, react, and come up with solutions. It also increases employee disillusion and turnover.
How to Avoid the Trap of Micromanagement
The role of the leader is to set direction, delegate effectively, and provide support when and where needed. These basic principles are the keys to avoiding the ineffective and costly mistake of micromanaging employees as a standard MO.
- Set clear objectives for projects, and, except for a few metrics, refrain from getting involved in details.
- Make the goals quantifiable and actionable and set clear deadlines. Leave it to your team to work out ways to meet these requirements.
- Let your team know beforehand when they can expect feedback from you on their completed work.
- Let everyone know that they can turn to you for guidance, coaching, and support, should they feel they need it.
If you want to learn more about the place of micromanagement within the framework of intelligent leadership, pick up my leadership development books.