May 26, 2023

When Should a Leader Micromanage?

“Micromanagement is a tool, but it is not a permanent solution.”
― Jocko Willink

Micromanaging has a bad reputation, and for good reasons. It can be harmful to morale, productivity, and retention. But, as is often the case, there are two sides to every coin. In some cases, for brief periods of time, micromanaging can be an effective strategy.

Here are some examples of when you might want to micromanage someone on your team:

  • When a team member is new or inexperienced. Micromanaging can help a new team member learn the ropes and get up to speed quickly.
  • When a team member is struggling. If a team member is consistently making mistakes or not meeting expectations, micromanaging may be a helpful tool to get them back on track.
  • When failure is too risky. Ideally, your team is prepared to handle high risk, high impact situations. But sometimes, especially with less experience teams, they’re not ready yet, and the stakes are too high to allow for mistakes.

Now, let me be clear. It’s always better to set clear goals and expectations, provide resources and support, and then get out of the way. This allows the individual team members to take ownership of their work and make decisions on their own.

So, you should:

  • Set clear goals and expectations. Make sure your team members know what is expected of them and what they need to do to succeed.
  • Provide resources and support. Give your team members the tools and resources they need to do their jobs effectively.
  • Get out of the way. Once you set clear goals and expectations, trust your team members to do their jobs. Don’t micromanage them.
  • Give feedback. Give your team members ongoing feedback so they can learn from their mistakes and successes and improve their performance.

Micromanaging is a tool that can be appropriate in some cases, but it’s never a good long-term solution.