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When Micromanaging Pays Off

Track details to unearth hidden truths

by on
in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Most management experts warn against meddling in your employees’ every decision. That advice isn’t always right. While controlling supervisors can turn their bold innovators into pliant order-takers, there are times when micromanaging makes sense.

By latching onto employees and immersing yourself in their jobs, you can better gauge their performance. You also gain a greater appreciation of what they face, from handling an antiquated phone system to writing progress reports.

Micromanaging can work wonders when you face these challenges:

Cutting costs. If you’re looking for expense-reduction ideas, don’t sit back and expect employees to become magically more efficient. Only by poking into every aspect of their jobs can you can spot waste and work with them to eliminate it.

Example: An insurance executive trying to contain administrative expenses might suddenly show interest in seemingly minor issues such as the phone bill or office supplies. This sends a message to all managers to treat the company’s money as their own.

Raising quality. If you’re trying to increase the durability of your products or improve customer relations, it’s wise to scrutinize and intervene. Instituting a “quality campaign” won’t do much good unless you show your commitment to root out problems and raise awareness.

Don’t assume that micromanaging will stop the flow of suggestions. As long as you don’t publicly second-guess your people, it can help if you temporarily insert yourself in their work lives.

Weighing a promotion. If you’re torn between promoting two talented managers, see how they react to your intruding. Then reward whoever better suits your style: the team player who absorbs your expertise like a sponge or the outspoken leader who has the guts to tell you to go away.

“I once chose my second-in-command by mercilessly micromanaging the two top candidates for a few weeks,” says the president of an apparel firm. “Only one said, ‘You pay me to handle this, so leave me alone.’ That’s what I wanted to hear.”

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