This Essay is written from the perspective of the Supervisor, Manager, or any other member of an organization to whom other team members report. The purpose of the Essay is to help the organization gain more productivity and the individual team members feel more connected to the organization and their fellow employees.


Cambridge Dictionary defines micromanage as “to control every part of a situation, even small details.” What this also says is “as your leader I do not trust you to do what is right and I feel the need to control every aspect of your actions.”


I recommend the reader refer to our Essay titled Trust & Leadership in which we discuss that without trust for the leader there cannot be effective leadership. This essay focuses on the other side of the same coin. Does the leader trust the team member enough to not micromanage the team member’s specific actions?


Trust does not come naturally.


A great team member does not necessarily make a great leader. Consider Mary who has been a productive member of ABC Products team for several years and is being considered for a management position. She does what needs to be done, on time, and with a quality level beyond many of her coworkers. She is always willing to take the initiative to find better ways of doing things by suggesting to management solitons others did not see. Her fellow team members seem to respect her abilities. Upper management has recognized her abilities and felt she could be even more helpful to the organization by applying her commitment to a better organization through a team she would lead.


An element that has not been mentioned and may or may not be part of Mary’s personality and abilities is to trust others to do what is needed by the organization. In Liz Wiseman’s book The Multiplier Effect she talks about the ability of an effective leader to “grow people’s intelligence by engaging it”. Such a person she describes as a “Multiplier” in that the supervisor will literally multiply the team members abilities by connecting with them and giving them the encouragement and space to utilize their abilities and in some cases to go beyond or multiply their abilities. The opposite of this is the supervisor or manager that always seems to need to control all decisions and actions of their subordinates. Such a person she refers to as a “diminisher”.  Many of us have experienced both types of bosses. The key element in all of this is the ability to trust those who report to us and to give them the encouragement and space to allow them to make more independent decisions. I would also borrow from a phrase President Ronald Reagan made famous “Trust but Verified”. Accountability should be part of the culture to measure the results of each of our decisions to celebrate the wins and learn from the losses and is discussed in our Essay Create a Culture of Accountability.  


Effects of Micromanagement vs. Engagement


Unfortunately, micromanagement is probably far more prevalent in most organizations than participatory style management. (More Diminishers than Multipliers) This makes sense when you consider the types of personalities that are drawn to be “The Boss”. If you ask people what makes a good manger you may hear things like a strong personality or willingness to take charge or quick to make decisions. But are those really the attributes of a great leader?


ABC Products is also considering Bill for the management position. He makes decisions quickly, is intelligent, and has good technical skills. Bill is eager to have his own team so he can implement his ideas to improve the company’s bottom line. This all sounds good but consider the words used carefully especially the phrase “implement his ideas”. Bill may make an OK Manager but probably not a good leader. A Manager should be able to have their team do what they are told and the way they are told. A good Leader will be able to motivate their team to do what is right for the organization not just what they are told. A good Leader will be able to extract ideas and innovation to improve the processes with input from the team. Good Leaders  have a team that will not let the Leader do something wrong if they can prevent it.  Imagine when Bill has his first staff meeting to discuss a problem facing ABC Products. He will assign duties to each team member and expect them to do what they are told.


As mentioned, ABC Products is talking with Mary for the same position. A major difference between her and Bill is her ability to connect with others around her. Even in her present non-management position she engages others to discuss better ways of doing things. Imagine Mary having her fist staff meeting to discuss the same hypothetical problem facing ABC Products. She would present the problem to the group and solicit ideas from each member of the team and then lead the group to a solution. They may not always agree with each other, but they will respect each other’s view and collectively agree to a procedure supporting the agreed upon solution. In fact, it is best if team members do not always agree in order to get the best solution and not the most popular solution.


Participatory Management vs. Micromanagement


All organizations will face problems and opportunities going forward. Within a participatory management style organization all, or hopefully at least most of the team members will be looking for ways to solve problems and take advantages of new opportunities. With a micromanager running things theirs are the only ideas presented and acted upon. There may be certain circumstances that require a more top-down authoritarian style leadership such as safety concerns or military type situations. Even then I would encourage you to read the book It’s Your Ship by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff, former commander of the USS Benfold. To quote Captain Abrashoff. “My experience has shown that helping people realize their full potential can lead to attaining goals that would be impossible to reach under command-and-control.”


I encourage the reader to look at their own motivations regarding how they manage their team. Consider creating a more open culture helping each team member to contribute based on their abilities. Set up systems to allow accountability to each other and the organization. Be a great Leader not just a Manager.


Please contact us at Summit Companies if you have any questions regarding this essay or other issues related to your organization.