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Are You a “Closet” Micromanager?

My wife doesn’t know how to properly pack a dishwasher.  She doesn’t appear to have any sense of order as she puts items on the racks. She doesn’t stack the bowls on the top rack that was perfectly designed to hold them.  I know I could fit at least 30% more stuff in that machine!


So, what should I do?  Do I suffer in silence?  Do I repack it when she isn’t looking?  And even more importantly, am I aware that my attitudes and behavior are clearly communicating to the woman I love, respect and believe in that she is too stupid to load a dishwasher correctly!?


Is this really what I want to convey to the most important person in my life?  How will she receive that message?  Certainly, it won’t bring out her best.  It won’t encourage her to take risks, to be bolder, to take on more. Instead, I might find myself sleeping on the couch and wondering how I got to be so stupid!


I told this story to a meeting of 300 business people in Baltimore, Maryland.  I wasn’t sure how it would be received.   And, I can’t begin to tell you how many men have stopped me in grocery stores or in the Mall to remind me of the dishwasher story and how they share the same dilemma.


I guess I am not the only micromanager in the world!


Managers (and husbands) micromanage for a variety of reasons:

  1. Some people are perfectionists by nature. This can be both a blessing and a curse. Perfectionists believe there is one right way to do every task and they want everything done that way. You would like your surgeon and accountant to be perfectionists.  But, these folks can’t scale very effectively.  It is very difficult to find people who care so much about all of the details.
  2. Other people want to be in control. They suffer from a difficulty trusting other people to show up, step up and make a meaningful contribution. They may have had bad experiences in the past when they trusted and things didn’t turn out well. However, they learned to be overly-independent, they don’t work well in a team environment.
  3. The final group of micromanagers want the credit.  They want to be seen as the hero who saved the day.  They want to be the one who has all of the answers and can answer all of the questions.   They don’t delegate well because they have too great a need to be important themselves.


One of the greatest misjudgments made by micromanagers is to value tasks over the people who accomplish them. Clearly, my wife is more important than an efficiently packed dishwasher.  In almost every case in business, the people you manage are vastly more important than the tasks you are asking them to do.  Your success as a manager is determined by your ability to build a cohesive, competent, capable and confident team. Micromanagement issues within management can derail processes.  Teams can learn as much (or more) from their mistakes as they do from their successes.


The key to shifting from a micromanager to an empowering manager is to become acutely aware of the impact you are having on the people you manage and their team development.  This requires learning a few key skills:

  • Give up picking nits. Differentiate clearly between the issues that are essential and those that aren’t. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Focus on teaching and mentoring such that in every task someone on your team learns something new, improves some skill or gains more confidence.
  • Accept less than perfection. In order to scale, you must delegate. You may lose some accuracy, but you will radically expand the volume you can produce.  Focus on the amount of work your team can accomplish.
  • Celebrate your team members. People thrive on recognition and praise. Look for every opportunity to put your people in the spotlight and to highlight their contribution. They will reward you with loyalty and commitment.


Becoming an empowering manager for your executive management team takes a bit ofenlightenment.  You must open your eyes to see a bigger picture.  You must teach yourself to see the power you exert when you support the growth, strength and teamwork of others.  This is your big opportunity.


About Jack Skeen

Jack Skeen
Jack Skeen, founder of Skeen Leadership, has been coaching bright and successful leaders for close to two decades, spending thousands of hours addressing every imaginable leadership, business and life issue with wisdom and professionalism.

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