This is a guest post by Nathan Jamail.
One of the greatest misunderstandings in leadership and coaching is the term “micromanaging.” Most leaders never want to be thought of as a micromanager. In fact, many would consider it an insult. When micromanaging is used as a coaching or leadership style, it typically delivers poor results, stifles creativity, diminishes employees’ self-worth and—without a doubt—limits productivity.
On the other hand, when leaders must deal with poor performers, it is imperative that they help their employees either become a better performers or find more suitable jobs. Leaders should strive to become coaches who—when necessary—use micromanaging activities to improve specific areas.
Source of confusion
Micromanaging and coaching are often confused because from the surface, the activities and the leader’s involvement look similar. Both micromanaging and coaching require the involvement of the leader: setting clear expectations, well-defined activity management, accountability and a huge time commitment from the leader as well as the struggling employee. The difference lies in the purpose of these activities.
Example: A leader sets expectations to ensure there is complete understanding of what he or she wants from each employee, in order to maximize productivity and limit confusion. The leader’s intent, however, indicates whether he or she is a micromanager or a coach:
- A micromanager does this to set boundaries and rules. A coach hold everyone accountable to show his or her commitment to the team.
- A micromanager uses accountability to ensure the employee is earning his or her paycheck (oftentimes focusing on single employees, as opposed to the whole team). A coach manages activities to ensure that all employees are on the right track and that they are in the best position to succeed.
- A micromanager uses the activities to justify effort or discipline. The 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 to develop and prepare the employees to succeed using the leader’s knowledge and experience to guide the employees, not to justify actions.
Action item: 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 your own benefit, but for them too.
Every great coach must use micromanaging tactics
Micromanaging is (or should be) a tactic of coaching, used sparingly; it should never be a permanent leadership style. Micromanaging should be used as a consequence for those employees who are not meeting expectations.
A bad performer does not necessarily mean a bad employee—and definitely does not mean a bad person. There are many employees that are not performing well because they are simply in the wrong job. In those cases, micromanaging can help the leader and the employee to make the best decision as to what action should be taken next.
When and how long to micromanage
Let’s say there is an employee who appears to be unhappy and is 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 issue, the leader should implement more disciplined expectations and activities and explain to the employee why this action is being taken, as well as the desired outcome—either to help the employee reach expectations, or help him or her find a role that is a better fit. These micromanaging activities should be short-term activities.
The leader should assess the employee’s shortcomings quickly, and if necessary, move the person out of the position. The leader should also take recognize the employee’s 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 end it 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.
Action item: When you have a poor performing employee, implement a performance plan of daily and weekly activities and micromanage those activities to help the person improve.
Why most leaders don’t like to coach
Like most people, the majority of leaders prefer to avoid confrontation. This is unfortunate, as constructive confrontations and discussions lead to progress. The key is in the intent of the confrontation. If the intent is to belittle, or point out all the obvious issues with an employee, then, yes, that is a destructive and useless conversation. However, in order to be an effective coach, a leader must approach confrontation with the intent of helping the employee.
It is impossible to be an effective coach without confrontation and discussion regarding areas of opportunity. Strong leaders confront their employees by expressing the desire to help them achieve success, pointing out opportunities for improvement and suggesting plans to help them. Those confrontations aren’t destructive or useless; they establish a plan for success.
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 either to become great at what they do or to find something they will be great at. Outside of issues with poor performing employees, your job as a leader is to coach your entire team to success.
Nathan Jamail, president of the Jamail Development Group and author of “The Sales Leaders Playbook,” is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and corporate coach. As a former Executive Director for Sprint, and owner of several small businesses, Nathan travels the country helping individuals and organizations achieve maximum success. His clients include US Army Reserves, Nationwide Insurance, Metro PCS, State Farm Insurance, Century 21, Jackson National Insurance Company and ThyssenKrupp Elevators. To book Nathan, visit www.nathanjamail.com or contact 972-377-0030.