In 1966, Clint Eastwood starred in a movie titled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” This spaghetti western told the story of three men searching for gold. The last scene is a famous three-way shootout, leaving the Good (Clint Eastwood) alive, the Bad dead and the Ugly barely surviving. In the world of business, we often encounter good, bad and ugly leaders. Many times these leaders are micro-managers. Is being a micro-manager a horrible attribute in a manager or not? Let’s take a look at micro-managers and how this complex characteristic can be good, bad or ugly.
Few corporate executives aspire to be micro-managers. The ideal leader is supposed to be a great delegator and motivator, not someone who tries to control every aspect of their employee’s work.
However, a CEO who is a micro-manager has the ability to plow down obstacles and force uncooperative team members to take on challenges that drive the value of the product or service. Steve Jobs was famous for pushing his engineers past the bounds of what most considered reasonable—and getting great results from it. Walt Disney was a well-known micro-manager who obsessed over every detail of every ride design at his theme parks. This did not make him popular with his employees, but the end result was and is stellar.
To be an effective micro-manager, a leader must have a clear vision for success and how to achieve it. That leader must also be courageous and confident. If a plan fails, the buck stops at the micro-manager’s desk. Sam Walton of Wal-Mart and William Rosenberg of Dunkin Donuts were well-known micro-managers who spent a large part of their time visiting stores to make sure their products were of the best quality. The “Good” micro-managers above were all visionaries for their companies. Their passion for their businesses drove their desire for accomplishment. With that same kind of intense commitment, a micro-manager can propel a company to success. “Good” micro-managers can be an asset.
Unfortunately, micro-managers are usually seen as “Bad.” While they can be assets, micro-managers obsessively control and bring tension and frustration to their companies. If you are a leader with this style, you might sometimes feel driven to push everyone around you to succeed, but often it’s at the cost of your colleagues’ confidence.
You might be a “Bad” micro-manager if you:
- Resist delegating
- Correct tiny details instead of looking at the big picture
- Discourage others from making decisions without consulting you
- Ask for frequent updates on where things stand
- Prefer to be cc’d on emails
- Are never satisfied with anyone’s work
If you find that micro-managing is part of your style of leadership but is negatively affecting your company and the people you lead, change is possible.
How Not To Be the Ugly:
Commit to hiring the right people. Look for employees that are accountable for their work. Screen possible additions to your team to see if they proactively seek information and feedback. Hire team players that are clear on the company’s goals and are able to articulate it back to you. If you create an extensive hiring process, you will be able to more easily trust your employees, and thus cutting the need to micro-manage.
Clearly and frequently communicate expectations. If your team doesn’t know what you expect, they will not give it to you. Communication is important so that you do not have to control what others might or might not be doing. Set consistent times for this type of communication. For instance, on a certain project set a meeting once every month to make sure everyone is on the same page. Be careful not to treat your team like children who need to be told the rules again and again.
Listen. Great leaders are masters at listening to their team members. Micro-managers often fail to listen to their employees, arrogantly believing they know best in all circumstances. The people you work with have important insights and ideas. If you don’t listen, they will feel disengaged and their work will suffer. If you choose to listen, you will create an atmosphere where your employees feel that they are valued contributors.
As a leader, you have the responsibility to root out the bad micro-managing, fix the ugly and encourage the good. Prevent a three-way shoot-out: address the micro-managing in yourself and others directly. By doing so, you will find the gold in your company.