Company Culture

Micromanagement: Why is it so Prevalent? What can be done about it?

Scott Leese

We all want to help. We all [whether we want to admit it or not] want to be helped. So why do we get it wrong so often in our attempts to help or accept help? Did a bit of research a few weeks ago on sales orgs in different potential verticals; and micromanagement from leadership kept coming up as reasons why people left or were unhappy. 

So why is it so prevalent?

  1. It exists because so few leaders [and execs] have been in leadership roles before and have not been trained to know better.
  2. It exists because managers and leaders feel like they care more than their team members do about hitting goals/targets.
  3. It exists when there is a lack of trust and transparency when it comes to KPIs/pipeline/deals.
  4. Power trips are real. Wish they weren’t but they are.

How can we avoid it?

How can we avoid micromanagement as leaders and avoid driving off great people with micromanagement?

  1. Invest in your leadership. Give your leaders mgmt training.
  2. Work together with your team members and help remove obstacles in front of them and discuss their goals and targets regularly.
  3. Track and communicate regularly when it comes to pipeline growth, deal timelines and KPI activities. Everybody should know where they stand at all times.
  4. Recognize you are in leadership to serve and help others, not to rule them.

It’s pretty easy to point out flaws in leadership that make you cringe. How about we stop and think about what we might be doing that makes a leader feel like they need to micromanage you. Why are we so resistant to somebody reminding us of our duties and goals and expectations on a regular basis? Can it not be re-framed as that tough coach pushing you to swim one more lap, or do one more set on the weight bench?

Perhaps we know we are not giving it our all. Maybe we are scared of giving 100% and failing and so we use this as an “out” to protect our fragile egos. I think many of us are overly defensive and sensitive to management techniques [even those applied wrong but with best intentions] and it makes the problem worse. You recoil from leadership and the leaders don’t get the feedback or response they are looking for and the lack of trust compounds and the problem gets worse.

So let’s try to come together and solve this problem. How can we help and allow ourselves to be helped? Let’s define “help” here first. In this context “help” means finding ways for leaders to avoid micromanagement in its negative connotation and replace it with consistent and welcomed feedback and coaching. It also means bringing down your defensive walls and humbling yourself so that you recognize leaders are trying to help get the most out of you and are not purposely doing things to frustrate or cause your performance to suffer.

Here are a few specific things you can do:

  1. Admit this is a problem. The first step is recognizing that micromanagement is a problem and does in fact drive good people away, so you should make sure your leadership knows the difference between holding people accountable and creating “walking on eggshells” fear-based environment.
  2. Change the narrative. Perhaps those being led can realize that in most cases, their boss is trying to push them to higher and higher levels of success and are not in fact trying to make their lives miserable. There is no world where it truly benefits a leader to upset their team members.
  3. Improve communication. How about everybody communicates and we actually listen to each other and adjust how we give and receive feedback. I think we would all be better for it if we did just that. Tell your leader how you like to get coached and receive feedback. This could be time of day, method of delivery and even tone of messaging.
  4.  Schedule Time for Feedback. Make sure you have scheduled blocks of time to get coaching/give feedback. It’s so easy to skip a session because you have a call/demo or were traveling for work. Takes commitment on your part to make sure you’re getting/giving the right amount of coaching and in a way that works for you/your team members to be most open to receiving it.

Hopefully you can begin the process of addressing micromanagement in your working situation by focusing on the issue and attacking it dead on. This is true for leaders as well as frontline team members. We’re all on the same team here, often with the same goals…so let’s act like it a little more often.

Scott Leese