Resource Management

Micromanaging vs. Coaching

Micromanaging is a tactic, not a style.

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One of the greatest misunderstandings in leadership and coaching is the term micromanaging. Most leaders never want to be thought of as a micromanager. InMicromanaging versus Coaching fact, many leaders consider such a designation to be an insult or a weakness. When micromanaging is used as a coaching or leadership style, it will most likely deliver bad results, stifle creativity, limit employees’ self-worth and inhibit productivity.

On the other hand, when a coach or leader must deal with a bad performer, it is imperative to help the employee either become a better performer or help them find a job that is a better fit. Leaders should strive to be a coach who, when necessary, uses micromanaging activities to improve specific areas, but uses coaching skills when getting the team ready to win.

Understanding Definitions

Micromanaging and coaching are often confused because the activities and leader involvement look similar from the surface. Clear expectations, well-defined activity management, accountability and a huge time commitment must come from the leader as well as the employees in both scenarios.

The difference lies in the leader’s intent and the purpose of these activities. For example, a leader sets expectations to ensure there is complete understanding of what each employee must do in order to maximize productivity and limit confusion. A micromanager does this with the intent to set boundaries and rules. A coach shows his commitment to the team by holding everyone accountable.

Similarly, a micromanager uses accountability to ensure the employee is earning their paycheck (often focusing on single employees vs. the team). A coach manages activities to ensure the employees are on the right track and in the best position to succeed.

A micromanager also uses the activities to justify effort or discipline. The micromanaging method is proved wrong when a coach understands it is not the amount of time an employee contributes as much as it is the focus and effectiveness of the time they contribute. The intent of coaching is not to justify actions, but to develop and prepare employees to succeed using the leader’s knowledge and experience as a guide.

Don’t afraid of being a coach because you don’t want to micromanage. Get involved and share the intent of your actions with your team so they understand that your goals are not only for yourself, but for them—which will ultimately lead to success.

A New Approach

As stated, the main issue with leaders and managers is they misunderstand what micromanaging is and is not. Micromanaging is (or should be) a tactic of coaching; it is not a leadership style. Micromanaging should be used as a consequence when employees are not performing well or meeting expectations.

Micromanaging is (or should be) a tactic of coaching; it is not a leadership style. 

A bad performer is not necessarily a bad employee (and definitely not automatically a bad person). Many employees do not perform well because they are in the wrong job, not because they are bad people who have no desire to be successful. Micromanaging such an employee allows the leader and employee to decide together about the best action plan.

When to Micromanage

Let’s say an employee appears to be unhappy, and their activity and results are not meeting expectations. The leader should get involved early to determine if the shortcoming is a lack of desire, ability or both.

To help determine the main issue, the leader should implement more disciplined expectations and activities and explain to the employee why the action is being taken, as well as the desired outcome. The desired outcome should be either to help the employee reach the expected activities, attitude and results, or help them find a role that is a better fit. These micromanaging activities should be short-term endeavors.

The leader needs to make assessments quickly and take on the continued shortcomings, which results in moving the employee out of the position. In turn, the leader should also take quick action to recognize great efforts and achievements as warranted. A leader should not have to implement a micromanaging activity for an employee for more than 90 days, and can stop the activity in as little as 30 days, depending on the level of involvement, improvement and accountability, as well as overall attitude and commitment of the employee.

Micromanaging is a tactic, not a style. When an employee performs poorly, implement a performance plan of daily and weekly activities, and micromanage those activities to help them move up in performance or out of the position that does not fit them. You owe it to them as their leader and coach.

Facing Challenges

The majority of leaders prefer to avoid confrontation. This is unfortunate, as progress can only be made in constructive confrontations and discussions. It is all in the intent of the confrontation. If the intent is to belittle or point out all the obvious issues with an employee, then, yes, the conversation will be destructive and useless. It would make sense to want to avoid it. However, in order to be an effective coach, a leader must approach confrontation with the intent of helping the employee.

It is impossible to coach without confrontation and discussion regarding areas of opportunity. When an employee is confronted by a leader who expresses the desire to help them achieve success, points out areas of opportunity and suggests a game plan to help them improve, the confrontation can take the route of establishing a plan for success. It becomes a win-win for both parties.

At this point, it is up to the employee to demonstrate their desire for success and jump on board, but it is also the leader’s job to micromanage through the issues until a satisfactory ending is in sight. Is this hard to do? It is, but only if the intent is wrong. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

Final Thoughts

Not every hire is the right hire, and not every job is the right job, but accepting either one just because it is easier is wrong. Micromanage through the issues by helping your employees become great at what they do, or by helping them find something that enables them to succeed. Outside of issues with poor performance from employees, your job as a leader is to coach your entire team to success.

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