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At this point, micromanagement is a pretty loaded term – and the connotations aren’t great. The image that comes to mind is a boss that doesn’t trust his or her employees to do their work without supervision. No one likes the idea of being constantly watched and having your every move picked apart while you’re trying to do your job. Study after study has shown that this is demotivating and only leads to resignations.

So the automatic assumption is that having a macromanager is a far preferable scenario right? Perhaps even the dream management method? A manager that leaves you to your own devices and empowers you to be totally self-sufficient? Well…. not necessarily. It depends on the situation. In certain circumstances, a macromanager can be even worse than a micromanager.

A manager that solely macromanages runs several risks, such as:

  • Not understanding the day-to-day issues that their staff face
  • A potential loss in productivity if they are too “hands off” and don’t hold anyone accountable
  • Not noticing when their staff are struggling and might require support
  • Losing focus on the interconnectivity of their staff’s roles and how their department fits in with the broader business

Also, it’s important to note that certain elements of micromanagement have merit. Smart businesses have processes and targets in place to keep staff motivated and ensure the business is always driving forward. Fortunately, technology has taken over many of the more unpleasant aspects of micromanagement. CRM systems are a transparent, unemotional way of keeping track of results and monitoring employee movements. 

A manager’s job is to inspire their team by showing them a roadmap of what the business wants to achieve, while also highlighting for each staff member what their individual role is in terms of achieving the business’ goals. There needs to be a sense of structure and purpose.

Great managers also have a thorough understanding of the different personalities of each of their staff and ensure they manage them accordingly. For example, certain staff members may require a lot of reassurance and positive reinforcement, whereas others may balk and feel stifled by receiving feedback too regularly. Some staff members require coaching and guidance, particularly graduates and junior staff, whereas others will be offended if you’re constantly giving them advice.

One simple but very effective idea used by a lot of managers is to set up an operating rhythm with your staff that includes regular one-on-ones at the same time every week. A weekly frequency provides a good middle ground between checking in too often, versus not checking in enough. It creates a forum that allows the manager to offer advice and keep their staff are on track with their goals, while at the same time ensuring that the manager is aware of the projects their staff are working on.

As is often the case, a balanced approach yields the strongest results. The best managers know when they need to be macromanagers and when they need to be micromanagers. 

They know when they need to hunker down and get into the weeds with their employees, but they also know when to leave them alone. They know when they need to be trusting of their staff and big picture-oriented, but conversely, they also know when they need to be detail oriented and focused on the minutiae.