Micromanaging is one of those business buzzwords. I would say we collectively agree it is a bad thing. Ask anyone if they are a micromanager and they will likely say “Not me.” Yet, the internet is loaded with article after article on the subject mostly focused on how it impacts the employee… but what about the leader? Is micromanaging bad for the ones engaging in micromanagement?
The short answer is “yes.”
I have worked under my fair share of micromanagers and non-microleaders alike. Theoretically, I researched a pile of case studies in Grad school on companies that failed due to the phenomenon. So, today. I want to explain why this practice is also terrible for the leader. To help illustrate this point, I would like to share the infamous four quadrants from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – an awesome read any business-minded person should digest.
If you are a leader, you want to live in Quadrant Two (or as I tell my team “I live in the future.”) This isn’t an excuse to get out of the daily grind of work so you can daydream about where the company will go and how rich it will make you. No… no… this is the key to long-term success. To illustrate, let’s say it is only me (the awesome leader) and my employees. We both know we do not want to exist in Q4. We also know that Q3 is a cost of doing business in any work environment where there are distractions galore (have you used Slack?) so we accept it but try to mitigate living there as much as we can. My goal as the leader is to exist in Q4 and I want my employee to exist, as much as possible, in Q3. With that, we create a nice Venn Diagram.
With this, we see that the employee is living in the “present” and I am living in the “future.” The overlap represents how we combine to propel the organization forward. I lean into the present to support my employee, learn from their pain points, and capture what they do well. My employee leans into the future to help me establish long-term solutions to our collective challenges. If we maintain this relationship, we will ultimately chip away at many of the issues that create crises and pressing problems in the short term and as such we will see fewer and fewer daily fires over time. This will free up the employee to take on more beneficial work for the company while also allowing the leader more time to focus on big-picture items like capital acquisition, strategy, and partnership building. All items that grow businesses exponentially.
Here’s the kicker. This rarely can be done if the leader is a micromanager because when you micromanage. You choose to live in Q3 with your employee. You have abandoned the long view of the business and this creates a snowball problem. Those daily fires continue to burn because nobody is focusing on how to extinguish them at the source. The leader now has less time to focus on the future and finds themself setting up camp in Q3 to solve these daily problems. Likely asking themselves why their employee can’t get it right. The immediate problems persist, but now, with the leader evicted from Q4, the macro-strategy of the business begins to suffer and before too long it is left with both long-term and short-term problems and a future in jeopardy.