How to manage without micromanaging

Mark Holmes

Are your crossing the line and getting too controlling? Learn how to be a balanced manager and not a painful micromanager.

Micromanagement is often defined as “excessive control of people or projects” and it is popularly viewed as an evil, not a good. But is it entirely? Most micromanagers do not realize they micromanage – but their people do! Read more below>>

How to Manage without Micromanaging

Micromanagement is often defined as “excessive control of people or projects” and it is popularly viewed as an evil, not a good. But is it entirely?

The ambiguity comes when we try to get our arms around exactly what is excessive? Most micromanagers do not realize they micromanage—but their people do!

An appropriate level of control is absolutely necessary to run a solid enterprise. But what is an appropriate level of control? When does a manager cross the line and get too controlling or suppressive?

On the other end of the spectrum however, a manager could be seen as weak, disconnected or ambivalent if they under-manage. They could get too little performance from their people precisely because they fail to provide enough oversight!

Do you find it challenging to balance being totally in control—with not being overly-controlling?

Balanced managers find just the right mix of connecting, supervising, measuring, oversight, autonomy, and keeping people accountable to results—all without being over-the-top, control-freakish, or heavy-handed.


4 Differences of Being a Balanced Manager Versus A Painful Micromanager


  • Micromanagement kills the spirit and drive of people by obsessing about the minutiae. Balanced managers may initiate projects, set the goals or parameters for associates and then get out of the way—but they immediately re-engage whenever projects stall out or lag behind. Micromanagers get in the way because they can’t release control.
  • Micromanagement clogs up the free flow of creative energies and inspired efforts. Micromanagers often manage granularly, meaning that they drive hard for results by ruling with an iron thumb. One example is an executive of a small family business who personally approved and edited all memos that his executive team wrote before they could be sent out! What a waste of time! But this is just like micromanagers. Rather than want summaries or highlights of progress, they immerse themselves into the micro level of projects or tasks and snuff the very life out of people. In contrast, balanced managers want the bigger picture, want to be copied on reports, and receiving a recap of a project’s status is fine with them. However, when goals or metrics are not being reached they look to get things back on course, quickly—and they re-engage as much as needed to achieve outcomes.
  • Micromanagement skirts the real issues. Micromanagers can become so controlling of everything that they may invest too little time in managing bigger issues like quality, sales or retention. When this happens, vital performance drivers of the organization will under-perform and may impact long-term viability. Balanced managers allow for greater autonomy but they still maintain a proper amount of control. They invest in developing people, and then assign them appropriate levels of control to achieve the goals. Balanced managers focus on the bigger picture, having clear goals, alignment of individual efforts with those goals and effective implementation in a manner that fosters trust. They step in when autonomy is being taken for granted.
  • Micromanagement slows everything down because people begin to wait on the micromanager to spell out what should be done next. In contrast, balanced managers expect people to make strategic plans, and then work those plans. When his/her expertise could be especially helpful, a balanced manager will insinuate themselves into the process, but not control it. They do not spend inordinate time handholding, or directing employees, but they leave no doubt they are very aware and involved in the progress of all pertinent projects. Micromanagers, down deep, struggle with trusting people. While it can certainly be uncomfortable to release control, it is essential if you want the organization to operate more efficiently and with increased momentum.

Reprinted with the permission of Mark Holmes. Holmes helps companies increase sales, service and employee performance. He utilizes twenty-four years of experience advising, training, and coaching some of America’s most successful small and large companies. His ideas on employee retention, sales and customer service have been widely featured in major national media like FOX, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, BNET and The Wall Street Journal. Mark can be reached at [email protected].


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