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Micromanagement is Underrated

Micromanagement is Underrated


July 14, 2015 by WCA Team 


Patrick Lencioni Asks If We Have Let the Pendulum Swing Too Far


Summit favorite Patrick Lencioni (TGLS 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2006, 2003)

recently made an insightful observation. He wonders if managers today, in the

name of avoiding micro-management, are instead erring in the opposite end of

the spectrum – “abdication management”. Read the original article here.

When I entered the workforce after college, I first became acquainted with the term

‘micromanagement.’ I quickly learned that this wonky sounding word actually had

deceptive power.


People who accused their bosses of micromanaging seemed to do so as a permanent

insult more than a mere suggestion for change. It was the organizational equivalent of

being labeled a Neanderthal, or a corporate version of being politically incorrect.

Micromanagers were assumed to be insecure and distrustful, so no one wanted to have

that label applied to them. To make matters worse, being called a micromanager was

almost indefensible; if an employee felt that they were being micromanaged, those

feelings had to be validated and addressed.


It might be tempting to read this and think “what’s the big deal?” Well, there was an

unintended consequence to this micromanagement witch-hunt, one that had a chilling

effect on leaders that continues today. See, the pendulum swung far away from

micromanagement and seemed to get stuck on the opposite end of the spectrum, in a

place I’ll call “abdication management.”


Today, for every real micromanager I come across, especially at the top of

organizations, there are dozens of abdication managers. These are the people who

know little about what their direct reports are working on, and defend their approach by

citing their own busy schedules, or worse yet, by proudly using words like trust,

autonomy and empowerment. Unfortunately, the results of abdication management are

consistent: a lack of necessary guidance, delays in recognizing problems, stunted

professional development of key people, and anxiety among employees. The

consequences of this on the bottom line of an organization are not hard to imagine.


Addressing the abdication management problem requires understanding its root

causes. Those include the fear of being accused of micromanagement, which I

discussed above, as well as a strange combination of negligence and ignorance. That’s

a pretty bold accusation – one that I also apply to myself – so it deserves a thorough



When I’ve confronted CEOs and senior executives about their tendency to under-

manage their direct reports, I’ve often received an explanation that goes something like

this: “Listen, I hire senior people with experience, and I don’t think they need me to

manage them.” This lack of energy for managing people represents one of the biggest

problems I see in corporate life. Management of direct reports is too often seen as a

remedial activity, reserved for employees without experience, rather than an essential

requirement for providing order and clarity for people at every level of an organization.

The nature of how people are managed will certainly vary depending on a person’s role

and level of maturity, but managing them is never optional, and the consequences of

neglecting it are always serious.


None of this is to say that true micromanagement is a good thing. But I’m convinced that

most companies would be far better served if their leaders walked a little closer toward

the micromanagement end of the spectrum than the abdication end. I’ve learned this the

hard way.


I’ve noticed that when one of the people I’m supposed to be managing is working on

something that is not particularly interesting to me, I find it easy to say, “I’ll trust them to

do what’s right.” I proudly leave all the details to them, and get involved only when a

problem arises that actually impacts my world negatively. I’m usually a little grumpy

when this happens. Of course, there is nothing virtuous about that.


But when I’m working on a project that is near and dear to my heart, I stay involved in a

way that keeps my people on task, allows me to see potential problems before they get

out of hand, and provides my staff with a level of confidence that they are headed in the

right general direction. Do I occasionally wonder if I’m stepping over the

micromanagement line? Yes. And so I wrestle with the tension of being in that

place – instead of running from it – and those projects usually go better than the others.


My challenge, and that of every other leader who occasionally participates in abdication

management, is to be more consistent in the way I manage, and not let it be determined

by my level of interest, energy or curiosity. That would certainly be a more responsible,

intentional and effective approach, one that would benefit my company, and the

wonderful people who work here.


Follow Patrick Lencioni’s blog and read the original article here.

Creation date: Jul 22, 2015 4:42pm     Last modified date: Jul 22, 2015 4:43pm   Last visit date: Sep 24, 2023 4:38pm
1 / 1000 comments
Jul 23, 2015  ( 1 comment )  
Julie Carr (beekielou)

IT IS all in the manner in which a leader micro-manages - there is an art to the process.  Creating a feeling that the employee is part of a team, where the manager gives positive feedback, positive direction and leadership, and the ideas of the employee are respected, but can be modified by the manager.  It boils down to communication: HOnest, direct  yet respectful.  Tom is a master at this!

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