Why Micromanaging Can Be a Good Thing

Micromanaging has definitely been seen as blight on management, but there are times when micromanagement actually makes sense. To distinguish quote, unquote, “healthy micromanaging” from unhealthy, I recently spoke to Ron Edmondson, who is a pastor at the Immanuel Baptist Church.

As a church leader and the planter of two churches, Edmondson is passionate about planting churches, but also helping established churches thrive. Edmondson has more than thirty years leadership experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and has been in full-time ministry for just over a decade. He has a seminary master’s and a master’s in organizational leadership. In the following interview, he talks about micromanaging, how leaders can best communicate, managing stress and more.

Dan Schawbel: When is it smart to micromanage and when should you avoid doing it?

Ron Edmondson: I despise micromanaging and being micromanaged. That said, there are times it is necessary in an organization. I recently wrote a post about this very issue. I think it’s important to manage closer when an associate is new — in the initial days of their employment. That doesn’t mean you don’t welcome their dreams and input, but they need to learn the organizations culture. It’s also important to micromanage in times of severe crisis or uncertainty. People want to know someone is leading and there is a plan. Again, the way out of the crisis might be ingenuity, and that may not come from the senior leadership, but senior leaders must help the organization reach stability again. When the ship is sinking, lead us to bail water and fix the leak. We should avoid micromanaging whenever there isn’t a compelling reason to be doing so. When things are progressing and the integrity of the vision is being maintained, back off and let others do what they are skilled at doing. The end goal may not be reached as the leader would have done things, but he or she is freed to do other things. Everyone wins.

Schawbel: What are the best ways for leaders to communicate with their teams and the world at large? (in person meetings, blogs, etc?)

Edmondson: It depends on the message and the audience. If the message is clear and will easily be supported and understood, then a quick, written explanation works. That could be a blog for especially large audiences, backed up with an email pointing to the blog, or more personal emails to smaller audiences. If the message is going to be more difficult to process or support, then verbal communication is needed. That could be a stage presentation for larger groups or personal conversations with smaller groups. The key is to ask who, what, when, where and how questions prior to trying to communicate. Forming a strategy for communication prior to beginning to communicate almost always improves the success of delivery.

Schawbel: How should leaders manage stress on a daily basis?

Edmondson: I have 4 suggestions. First, have a clear vision. Second, work from established goals and objectives. Third, maintain personal health. Fourth, take frequent breaks. You have to know where you’re going. That eliminates many of the stresses in chasing after things that aren’t even part of the vision. Having a system of planning for implementation that’s updated every 6 months or so also focuses our attention towards those things which are most important. We are more prepared for interruptions — and stress less about them — when we schedule our time.

Schawbel: What are some of the top qualities all successful leaders have and what are some signs that someone isn’t a leader?

Edmondson: Leadership is taking people somewhere — to some better reality today — when the path is unclear. Great leaders have an equal love and respect for people and progress. It’s not enough just to love and respect people. You have to want to take them somewhere. It’s not enough to love and respect progress. You can’t do leadership without people. It’s a combination of both. If you have those two, most of the skills can be learned, and they would include qualities such as strategizing, vision-casting, team building, delegation, and integrity. I believe someone proves they can’t lead successfully when they lose sight of either one — people or progress.

Schawbel: How do you balance leading yourself versus leading your organization?

Edmondson: I don’t. I think good leaders lead themselves first always. As they become better personally, so will their leadership of the organization. I use the airplane mask example. If you’ve spent any time flying commercially, you’ve most likely memorized the flight attendants instructions prior to take off. Remember when he or she says “Be sure to adjust your own mask before assisting others.” If the leader isn’t taking care of him or herself personally, he or she can’t continue to lead at the level needed to keep the organization healthy. The healthier the leader is — physically…emotionally…spiritually…socially — the more health he or she can bring to the organization. A leader can’t help the organization if they are having trouble breathing on their own.














Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. His new book, a New York Times best seller, is called Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press) and his previous book, Me 2.0, was a #1 international bestseller.

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