Monday, May 6, 2024

Is Micromanagement Good for Your Business?

Can leaders get the most from their people if they micromanagement them?  I was asked about very specific situations of micromanagement and when or if it is appropriate.    

As a leader, your job is to produce results through others.  The accomplishments are most effective when the outcomes are in the best interest of the whole.  Those results include

the professional growth and development of those under you.  Is micromanagement the best way to produce those results?

What is micromanagement: 

Micromanagement is where managers feel the need to control aspects of their employee's work & decision-making to an extreme degree - more than is necessary or healthy for a usual working relationship. Many people have experienced micromanagement at some point in their careers.Oct 24, 2023

  1. The idea that micromanaging is a negative is a false positive, so to speak, Shopify CEO and co-founder Tobi L├╝tke believes. “There is probably no singular idea that has destroyed more business value on planet earth than the idea that micromanagement is bad,” he said. It’s a part of “being responsible for everyone,” and it can help supervisors mitigate mistakes before they happen, he added. Is he far more correct than detractors of the practice or is the answer to this entirely situational?

He is not far more correct, especially at the CEO level.  Micro management creates opportunity costs.  Those costs are even more profound when it happens at the C-Level.  

Micro management does several things that are not in the best interest of the company.  First, it means no one is steering the ship.  If the CEO is micromanaging, he is not focused on long term strategies and growth opportunities.  He is fixing or solving problems like an employee or supervisor at best.  In fact, a major part of the CEO’s job is to intentionally create problems for the organization to solve.  When staff and management solve the problem, they will have developed new products and/or services.  That leads to possibly penetrating untapped markets and ultimately new revenue streams.  While solving the problem, staff and management will also have developed new skills and competencies.  How can a CEO create problems if he is working like an employee?   

Other side effects of CEOs creating problems are the teams become galvanized after working through difficulties.  When you see people from the military that have gone through tough times together, you see people with a close bond who trust one another.  

With that said, when the CEO micromanages, he sends a message that he does not trust his people.  Lack of trust becomes the corporate culture.  That also impedes risk taking, which is needed to create breakthrough initiatives.  

Furthermore, when CEOs micromanage, their people do not develop skills that keep up with the growth of the enterprise.  This creates a dilemma for the CEO.  The organization will eventually outgrow the skills and competencies of staff and management.  Therefore, he will have to fire them at specific revenue milestones and hire new people.  That cycle will continue at each new revenue milestone.     

2. Mark Cuban says micromanaging is dangerous except when you’re early in a process — think building a brand-new startup or training a new employee — sweating every small detail can help. “Micromanage early. Trust the process or fix what’s broken..." So it is dependent, in his mind, on situation and challenge. How can leaders objectively and accurately determine when their micromanaging impulses -- or the need -- is “justified?”.  

If you are a start up in a new sector, it may be essential to micromanage.  For example, the first social media companies could have justified micromanagement.  It was new and the CEO would have wanted everything to be a specific way.  His vision would have been setting an industry standard that did not exist.  At the same time, the CEO also has to consider whether or not he hired the right people.  If you are growing someone into a new position, however, micromanaging could be very appropriate.  This can be the result of delegating new tasks to direct reports.    


3. Cuban provided a confession: “I wish somebody would have told me to be nicer,” he said, when asked what advice he’d give his younger self. “Because I was always go, go, go ... Ready, fire, aim. Let’s go. Let’s go faster, faster.”

Cuban’s hustle-forward outlook hurt the company’s early-stage morale and performance, he said: “Sometimes it took my [business] partner Todd [Wagner] telling me, ‘Look, you’re scaring some people, [and] they’re typically going to [quit] and you can’t get mad.’”

There is expensive risk to micromanaging then. How can it be done without offending and alienating a team and turning them into less productive or job seekers?

There are cases when a leader micromanages accountability.  You are managing the values the company stands on.  One way to do it is to catch people doing something well and acknowledge them for it.  When you catch them doing something wrong, acknowledge it.  Than you can ask them if they understand the companies promise or commitments.  Then you can ask why they are doing something contrary to that.  

4. A micromanaging boss? “Outline some of your concerns and tell them, ‘I believe my boss is micromanaging me, and I’m hoping to alleviate that as I love working here. What do you recommend?’” Monster career expert Vicki Salemi said. What do you think about this advisory? Workable or idealistic yet low value in practice?

Asking staff and management for advice can go a long way.  Many do this as part of an exit interview when a person is leaving the company.  However, it could be very powerful to ask staff and management for their advice while they are still employed with you.  The simple question is: What advice would you give me if you want to see me be a better boss?  

This can be done one-on-one or in groups. 

As a side, I have had many conversations with several former CEOs of Fortune 500s.  One message they have all relayed to me was the following: In the beginning of my career, I was concerned about money, metrics and milestones.  Near the end of my career I came to the realization that if I take care of my people, they will take care of money, metrics and milestones.  Each CEO went on to say they wish they had known that in the beginning of their careers.  They said life would have been easier.  

5. What alternative to micromanaging is there (no lists please) that gets the job done without what is viewed as negative and damaging?

Ask people to do things that are over their heads or outside of their core competencies.  At first, they may be terrified.  Ensure them it is ok to not get it right and you will be there to support them.  When they fail, do not punish them.  When they succeed, they will have an entirely new level of confidence in themselves.  That gives job satisfaction and creates trust between you and the person.  They are left with the notion that you trust them.  They are less likely to want to let you down after that.  

What do you think?  I would love to hear your feedback.  And I’m open to ideas.  Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, comment through my blog:  


  1. The Skill Drain Paradox of
    Relic Hierarchy Organizations


    There are many well-known reasons why in today's volatile, uncertain, complex, and AI business environment, hierarchical organizations are no longer fit for purpose. And as a result, why they contribute to the current 26% employee turnover, 70% of transformations not achieving objectives, productivity down to 1.4% and significant business culture clashes. These are all signs of something seriously wrong, teams and current solutions are failing, and costing companies billions of dollars each year. But there is another less recognized reason contributing to these failings…the Upward Spiral of Skill Extraction. Imagine if in:

    1. Baseball: Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb
    2. Acting: Marlon Brando, Humphry Bogart, Jimmy Stewart,
    Kathrine Hepburn
    3. Opera: Luciano Pavarotti, Maria Callas, Enrico Caruso, Joan
    4. Science: Einstein for Relativity, Watson & Crick for DNA, Tesla
    for AC current, Stephen Hawking for physics of Black

    when these individuals were recognized in the early stages of their career as exceptional performers were moved into management. Ridiculous…it would never happen. But in rigid hierarchies, this nonsensical scenario is reality. In hierarchies’ workers with promising skills are extracted from their functional positions where they excel and are “promoted” into management.
    The Upward Spiral of Skill Extraction in Hierarchical Organizations causes real problems:
    • Skilled workers are promoted to management, leaving the "doing" to those who are less effective. This cycle repeats, gradually depleting the frontline of expertise.
    • Managers who were promoted were “told they were the best” and because of the nature of hierarchies, often resort to micromanagement and control-based tactics, further hindering innovation and productivity. Because they were told they were the best! They have almost no choice but to micromanage. There are endless articles and training programs telling manager not to micromanage. But the nature of hierarchical organizations prevents these recommendations from succeeding.
    • Workers yearning for recognition seek career progression through climbing the ladder, not through mastering their craft.
    Reversing the Skill Extraction Trend
    We’ve developed an alternative organization platform called Deep Value CSI® that is based on empowering workers. In this alternative managers become facilitators and coaches, ensuring workers have the resources and support they need to thrive and meet the needs of what we call their internal customers. Senior managers set vision, strategy and goals. Lower management interprets what these mean to each worker…within guidelines. Managers expertise lies in strategy, communication, setting guidelines, and removing roadblocks so workers can succeed, not in micromanaging tasks.
    Ed Cusati

    1. Thanks for the comment, Ed. Sounds like you are doing interesting work. For sure, businesses need to transform corporate culture and mindsets. Micromanagement is a mindset.

      I had a former CEO of a Fortune 500 write an article for my blog. He talked about how people rise to their highest level of mediocrity. That happens partly, as you stated, because the wrong people are promoted into higher positions, especially management. I think you will find his article interesting. See his article: