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Micromanaging for the Win

I Know, It Sounds Like a Dirty Word, but It Can Bring Out Our Best

Many of you read the headline of this article and had an emotional reaction — anger, most likely, mixed with a little dread. Why is this? Because you immediately flashed back to a boss who was forever in your face, telling you the “best” way to do every little task you were faced with each day and not afraid to tell you how smart and successful they are and that your way was wrong.

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Now that I have your attention… that is not what we’re talking about here.

In its proper place, micromanaging — or being directive — can be an incredibly useful tool to take someone new to a task to get the best out of them in the shortest period of time. But let’s give micromanaging a better, more proper name, and the one we’ll use for the rest of this article: Coaching

In the Theory of 5 mindset, we are always searching for people who will take their valuable time to show us how they achieved great results and challenge us to do the same. These mentors will bring out our best and show us we’re capable of doing far more than we ever dreamed possible. It only works, however, if we’re open to their advice, direction and teaching. 

When starting out in a new job — either in a field that’s completely new to us or at a company where we’re unfamiliar with the day-to-day operations — detailed direction is a good thing, and many people crave and appreciate it. 

One Minute Manager author Ken Blanchard addresses this in his “Situational Leadership Theory.” In his experience, the best time to be directive in this manner is typically when an individual is new to a task or situation. That’s when a manager’s in-depth leadership has the most impact. 

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For many years, I was a competitive wrestler. I started out with raw talent and wasn’t afraid of physical contact. When we were learning a new move, however, my coaches were very “hands-on” with us, telling us when to pull our arms, our legs and even the proper time when we could move (the ultimate in “micromanaging”). 

As we progressed in the sport, our coaches moved to the finer points, knowing that we had an increasing mastery of each move. There were lessons off the mat that made us better wrestlers, as well, such as exercises that built muscle tone and nutrition that gave us energy and power. We didn’t resent our coaches’ instructions because we knew this was the process of becoming a champion. 

In a career such as sales, it’s the same process. We are given word tracks and told how — and why — to use them when we’re with customers. Our leader listens to our presentation and gives us specifics about how we can improve. We’re told how to enter information into the dealership’s CRM and why it is important. When we’re starting out, we need this information and feedback. If we’re working in a vacuum, we have no idea how we’re doing, much less how we can improve. 

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Once we have put some mileage on our career odometer, however, a true leader knows how important it is to step back, give guidance and coach us on the finer points, knowing that we have the experience to get the job done. Managers who don’t understand this essential transition are the ones who give micromanaging a bad name, because they don’t know when to give their team members the freedom, authority, resources and responsibility to fly on their own — and to feel accountable for their results. 

When a wrestler steps onto the mat, the coach’s job — for that moment — is over. If the wrestler isn’t performing well, the coach can’t run onto the mat and take over. In the business world, however, some managers can’t resist the temptation to do just this. True leaders understand that failure is a part of the learning process; it is a teaching tool they can use to educate their team members. The best leaders allow those they coach to learn, gain experience and build their individual talents as they guide and support them in achieving their success. 

Dan Grable, Cael Sanderson and Lee Kemp — all dominant wrestlers of their time — didn’t decide to run onto the mat and suddenly find themselves on the Olympic podium with a fortune of gold around their necks. Coaches along the way taught them how to be champions and they took their lessons to heart. If we’re just starting out, we allow ourselves to be “micromanaged” — to be coached — as we learn the ropes. Then, as we train and coach others, it is crucial to know when to step back, cheer them on and be there for our team

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