Leadership Competencies

Micromanaging is not managing at all

Regardless of what you may think, micromanaging never has been, is not now, nor will it ever be a sustainable method of ensuring your organization is effective and efficient.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that is it is a sign of weak management and is devoid of any leadership value.

Don’t believe me?  Consider these points:

  • It destroys your focus – If you are constantly checking in on quantity/quality of your team’s work, how much time are you spending on your own? You must consider that it is not only the actual time but amount of focus and energy as well.  As a leader, your focus is your most valuable asset and if you are maniacally focused on checking the work of others, can you also be focused on the longer-term challenge and opportunities?  I can guarantee that if you are consumed with the minutiae of what others are doing, no one else is keeping an eye on the horizon to see what lies ahead.
  • Forget about others taking ownership – The more you micromanage, the more you own that output. You are the problem in this scenario! You might want to believe you are ensuring high quality work but what happens when you continually find errors in the work and/or it is consistently not done on time?  You become more focused and more diligent, right?  That is precisely what leads others to take their hands off the wheel and lose all interest.  Subconsciously, they accept that you are going to be checking every detail and this obliterates any desire to produce high quality work on time.  Talk about unintended consequences! Why would anyone want to own their work when it is never their work? Micromanagers create armies of sub-par team members because they know it will never be “right” so why put any extra effort into it.
  • If it is them, it’s still you – If your team is not capable of producing high quality work in the agreed-upon time frame, it is still your issue. Remember that all issues run uphill not downhill. You now have one of two issues: 1) Poor hiring practices 2) Poor training and development practices.  Regardless of the answer, all arrows still point to you. Before you begin feeling justified in your micromanagement and begin heaping blame on others, what have you done to ensure both the hiring and training/development processes are top-notch?  How do you ensure that you are hiring for the best possible fit and what support do you provide those who are lucky enough to find themselves on your team?  Is it possible that so much of your focus is on micromanaging everyone’s work that you have little to no focus left to direct to these significant and strategic issues facing your business?

There are other options.  It is possible to ensure that everyone on your team is strategically aligned and focused on producing high quality work. 

Here are some things to consider:

  • Get over yourself – Regardless of what you might think, you are not the Holy Grail of productivity. It is reasonable to believe that you may be the most committed person in the office but that does not translate into the most effective or efficient.  Remember that we should judge others on their actions but judge ourselves on our intentions!  Imagine what might happen if you begin expressing confidence in others and expect them to produce high quality work in the previously agreed upon timeframe.  People often do not understand what they are capable of until someone else pushes them to achieve it. Just remember this quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”
  • Delegate don’t abdicate – It can be hard for others to complete work when things have just been thrown at them in a sort of “drive-by” delegation. Delegation requires specific steps to ensure the person accepting the task has even a remote chance of being successful.  One of the most significant challenges other face is that they are not you.  They cannot command the same resources and responses from others both inside and outside the organization unless you officially grant them that power in order to achieve the objective.  If you would like to read more about this particular topic you can check out this post on Drive-by Delegation.
  • Slow down – The sin of speed is typically the main culprit in micromanagement. You are a member of the “cult of busy” and zip from one person to another like a plate spinner on the Ed Sullivan Show. If you are younger than 50 years old and have no idea what I was referring to, check out this video and see if it doesn’t feel like a typical day at the office.  Take a day and try something different.  Prioritize the tasks and determine the one or two things that are truly important and essential and create an action plan to move those things ahead.  Have meaningful conversations with your team and ensure they understand how their work connects to the larger vision of the organization.


If you really want to solve the challenge, consider the implications of this quote from French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men and women to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

Could you spend more time lighting that fire instead of constantly looking over shoulders? It will require a seismic shift in focus and belief, but it also may produce amazing results that far exceed what both you and your team imagine you are capable of.  You do have a choice.


Category: Leadership Competencies

Tags:  , ,

About the Author: Perry Maughmer

I hate few things but two of them are writing in the 3rd person and talking about myself.  I think both sound pretentious.  I am not saying it is pretentious, it just seems like it to me. That said, I imagine others do want to know who th

Learn More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *