Is Micromanaging an Effective Management Model?

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Micromanaging, by definition, focuses on the smallest details of the manager’s direct reports’ daily activities. Nothing is too insignificant, too mundane, and even too irrelevant to bypass a micromanager’s wrath.

In some industries this may be a good thing — think heart surgeons or NASA engineers. Missing just one small detail can costs lives. 99% accuracy and completeness may be perfectly fine in one business but can spell disaster in another.

What about businesses where perfection is not mission critical? Is micromanaging necessary and even beneficial in a sales organization, for instance? Sales people have performance quotas and other responsibilities such as record keeping, cold calling, etc. Sales managers’ styles vary greatly from being entirely hands-off (the uber-trusting type) all the way to the hyper-controlling style.

The trusting manager wants to ensure you are making daily/weekly sales calls and emails, while the control “freak” insists on not only hitting the mandated number of calls, but requires written details of each and every dial. Who did you speak to (name and title please), how long was the conversation, what interest did the prospect show, what is your follow-up action, etc. Why did you only make 48 calls; knowing your requirement is always 50? What were you doing wasting office time at the water cooler?

Micromanagers always “hover” over their team members, watching every activity and noting every inactivity. They are critical to a fault — nothing escapes them. Occasional personal breaks or internet browsing is never OK. Trusting their employees is simply not in their DNA.

On the other hand, hands-off managers often miss signs of problematic issues with their team. Top performers may be showing subtle clues of dissatisfaction, possibly being a flight risk. Poor performers may simply not be working hard or smart enough.

However, micromanagers may be so focused on the minutia that they cannot see the bigger picture. Have you ever enlarged a photo until the image pixilated, to the point that you cannot recognize the photo’s subject image? Micromanagers concentrate on the pixels, often missing the bigger picture.

Good managers have a solid understanding of the positive and negative attributes of their direct reports — skill and experience level, personality, general disposition, etc. Great managers have strong instincts and intuition and can act on employee issues before they hit critical mass.

Problem employees may respond well to warnings and close monitoring, where others are better off with words of encouragement and feedback that is positive in nature. To the micromanager, it’s all about the negatives because they never take a step back and try to understand what makes their employees tick.

Different industries require different management style needs, and some may require micromanager types due to the nature of their business.  For the rest, it is critical to be aware of potential micromanagers, who may be wolves in sheep’s clothing. In other words, managers that appear to be thorough and detail oriented but in fact may ultimately be detrimental to the business.