Nobody likes to be micromanaged.

You can’t blame them. Nobody wants to have somebody standing over his or her shoulder, telling them EXACTLY what to do, and leaving no autonomy. Nobody likes having a backseat driver screaming at them at the slightest deviation from the way that the manager thinks it *should* be done (regardless of the effectiveness of the approach.)

I don’t believe that anybody can defend this kind of micromanagement, and I’m certainly not going to try. What I will do is take umbrage with another set of activities that often (wrongly) get labeled as micromanagement, which often falls under the general category of “monitoring activities.”

Sometimes the flack is warranted, but other times–it’s so desperately wrong. For the past few months, I’ve been railing on the idea that we can’t expect what we don’t inspect–especially as it relates to sales, marketing, and customer service, but what I hear time and time again are excuses about why this can or can’t be done.

For example:

“I can’t monitor how many calls our people are making–that’s micromanagement!” 

“I can’t track the time they spend on the phone, or the time they spend composing emails–that’s micromanagement.”

“I can’t start tracking something now because we’ve never tracked in the past.”

“I can’t expect them to report on what they did all day. I don’t want them to think I don’t trust them!”

That’s not micromanagement. That’s management.

It’s the management of the day-to-day activities and expectations we expect from our people if we want to succeed. The Pick-3 Process which I’ve been talking a lot about lately is really about two things:

  1. Building and developing the habits of proactively getting in touch with existing customers over and over again to drive growth, foster loyalty, and increase retention, and….
  2. Making sure people are doing what you expect them to be doing, with a hint of active management & business intelligence built in.

So when John’s results for the past six are 10X better than Steve’s, then we have the evidence AND the data to see that John kicked Steve’s butt, because he did what was expected of him 90% of the time, and Steve only did what was expected 10% of the time.

If we aren’t measuring and holding people accountable–how do we know anything? If we’re just watching the outputs, but not tracking the inputs, then we’re missing the boat. It’s not micromanagement to recognize Steve hates picking up the phone, and offering him effective and positive coaching on how to do better. But it’s micromanagement to stand over his shoulder and listen to every call he makes and telling him what a lousy job he’s doing.

Many have been lulled into this idea that any form of active management might be crossing the boundary of “big brother” style micromanagement, but more often than not–it’s what’s so desperately needed to succeed.

Instead of managing in ways to create meaningful change, or to offer positive coaching/training/praise, or thoughtful feedback–it’s used negatively to drive accountability and forced expectations without properly explaining what those expectations are, or how to do things better.

Don’t confuse active management with micromanagement–it’s one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal.

Your Weekly Challenge: In what areas of your business do you have a heavy hand and a watchful eye, without proper business outcomes in mind? Where would you be better served by more active management? And finally, be honest–are you confusing micromanagement with management? Are you avoiding both in fear of it being labeled one or the other?

Try the following quiz. Give yourself a score of 1-5 on the following questions. Five being excellent and one being poor.

  1. I know what activities my sales/service/customer facing people are engaged with on a daily basis to bolster retention and enhance loyalty.
  2. We have different processes in place, and I know with certainty, they’re completed all the time (new customer onboarding, welcome packages, retention process, etc.)
  3. I know how many customer complaints my business (store, website, etc.) dealt with last week, last month, and last year.
  4. I know with definite certainty how quickly we respond to customer service related issues.
  5. I know new leads aren’t falling through the cracks.

If you scored a 15 or above–Congrats, you’re likely actively managing your people. Anything less, and you’re probably missing big profits, opportunities, and areas of growth within your organization.

You might be micromanaging, but forgetting to manage.