Here’s Why You Need to Rethink the Notion That Micromanagement Is Bad

Last of five parts

By David Goldsmith with Lorrie Goldsmith

Micromanagement has gotten a bad rap over the years, because it conjures up images of the big boss breathing down the necks of hard-working subordinates.

But in reality, that’s only one side of micromanagement and is only the case when it isn’t executed properly. It’s time to rethink the opinion that all micromanagement is this in-your-face type of suffocation that smothers people and decreases their abilities to perform optimally.

In reality, micromanagement can be one of the most effective ways to increase performance. In addition, there are some environments where micromanagement through systems and structures are necessary to ensure specific outcomes and safety.

How micromanagement can be effective

In the stereotypical, negative view, the word “micromanagement” makes us think of leaders who are so engrossed in the daily doings of their subordinates that they get in everyone’s way and don’t get their own work done. By filling their days with tasks that belong in someone else’s daily planner, these micromanagers fail to give ample time to their own responsibilities like thinking, strategizing, and moving their organizations forward.

In this scenario, micromanaging efforts ultimately hurt the organization on multiple levels, not the least of which may be employees, volunteers, or other group members reacting negatively to feelings of frustration and needless pressure resulting from the constant monitoring. This means that neither the micro-managing boss nor the subordinates are performing as optimally as they could.

By contrast, when leaders have the right mental tools to be effective micromanagers, they are able to direct their organization’s people and resources in the direction of shared goals.

Effective micromanagement through setting structure, developing strategy and plans, creating reliable systems for others, and teaching people how to be independent thinkers can actually empower others to do their jobs with little involvement from you at all. Yet truthfully, they are being micromanaged; they just don’t feel it, because you’re not in their faces.

Micromanagement isn’t always a choice. You may be entrenched in an industry or sector that requires a certain degree of micromanagement, so the question isn’t whether or not you micromanage; it is how to do it correctly. Leadership in toxic waste or medical waste-management facilities must follow strict procedures to ensure the safety of their staffers, customers, and the general public.

It’s about striking the right balance

For decision makers, striking the right balance between being involved and letting others work independently can be a challenge. Regardless of your organization’s circumstances, following the GPP (the Goldsmith Productivity Principle, which states that 80 percent  of an organization’s ability to compete and perform is driven by its systems and structures, and only 20 percent is by its people) is how you effectively micromanage your organization’s people and resources to achieve desired outcomes.

Build an environment of systems, structures, tools, equipment, etc. to support the talents and skills of your people, and you will earn their trust, gain their cooperation, and increase their pro- ductivity levels. When micromanagement is done right, you are able to achieve the results your organization needs to grow and survive.

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Here’s an example of micromanagement done right according to the GPP:

Think about when you drive on the highway; do you feel micromanaged? Most likely you feel pretty independent. You select your destination and the vehicle you’ll use to get there. You also determine the vehicle’s air temperature, whether you’ll listen to music, who your passengers are, and what type of car you’ll drive.

But if you look closer, you are actually very micromanaged. You must drive on predetermined roads, streets, and ramps. You must maintain certain speeds. You must pass only in predesignated passing zones. In some areas, you must pay a toll for using the road.

Micromanagement CAN be done right

However, you don’t resent being micromanaged, and you don’t feel that you’re constantly running into roadblocks due to the micromanagement, because the road system enables you to reach your targeted destinations, much like systems help your staffers to reach their targeted goals.

Systems and structures also direct your organization toward innovative solutions both internally, as organizational improvements, and externally, as product and service improvements. Consider how a restaurateur might opt to “micromanage” his establishment’s reservation process by using a proven software system — one that employees manage internally or one that patrons can access externally through the Internet — to achieve reliable outcomes.

Micromanaging systemically removes the crises that erupt from inefficiencies and replaces problems with opportunities. Additionally, micromanagement done right prevents waste, so your organization has more resources to dedicate to these improvements.

Excerpted with permission from Paid to THINK: A Leaders Toolkit for Redefining Your Future, by David Goldsmith with Lorrie Goldsmith. Copyright (c) 2012, BenBella Books.

Miss the rest of this series? See Paid to Think: The Benefits of Winning by a Nose, Want to be Wildly Successful? Then Make Change a Welcome FriendRethink Your Concerns About Doing More With Less and, Developing Leaders: The Key is in Teaching Them How to Think.

David Goldsmith is a consultant, advisor, speaker, telecast host and author. He is the President of the New York-based Goldsmith Organization , holds an MBA from Syracuse University, and served on the faculty of New York University for 12 years. Lorrie Goldsmith is co-founder of the Goldsmith Organization. You can download all the graphics associated with their book "Paid to THINK" for your organization for no charge at, and they can be reached at and


1 Comment on “Here’s Why You Need to Rethink the Notion That Micromanagement Is Bad

  1. Interesting take on Micromanagement. I agree that when it’s defined as something like “taking care of the little things for my people” it’s not just okay, but the right thing to do, and vital for success. It’s still going to be tough to apply term “micromanaging” to something other than my boss breathing down my neck, but I see your point.

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