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Micro-management vs Macro-management

Updated on November 2, 2016

Two guys walk into a bar. One maneuvers others out of his way by asking them to step aside and with gentle gestures they move this way or that. The other, scans the crowed for open spaces and steers himself through the magnitude of people. Once up to the bar, they happen to order at the same time, which sparks a conversation. Through the minutes of dialogue they identify their purpose for being there, some interests, and professional career. They discover that they are similar, both being managers. This merged the conversation into the beginnings of a friendship and professional comparison. They identified that the manager maneuvering through the open spaces was a macro-manager; while the one working through the crowd was a micro-manager. Both were able to get to their destination. They just had two different ways of getting there. After a few drinks they became more passionate about their style of managing and formulated a challenge. In the interest of identifying how to best manage people, they would compare macro and micro management, to determine what style of management is most successful. After agreeing, they decide to meet back at the bar in one month’s time with their findings. Like this story in my life I have experienced both styles of leadership and decided I wanted to learn how to be the best manager.

Which style of leadership has a better positive personal response? Which has the most impact on improving performance? Which style of management is best? These are all key questions for understanding motivations and managing performance. Therefore, I will be arguing in my personal academic essay that to best manage others, in any role, you must combine different elements of micro and macro management styles. This allows you to develop a leadership relationship with each person individually. I will Identify and explore both leadership styles so that an understanding of each is displayed. This will be to show the appropriate control and mastery for each type of leadership.

When I first became an employee manager, I wanted to do so well that I was watching every little detail of my employees’ performance and providing instant feedback on it. This caused me to be incredibly busy and agitated. Their performance areas were not meeting goals. In addition, the team lacked motivation to achieve success because they felt unvalued. I was angry. Being consumed with small details resulted in very little time to spend with my family, and a constant awareness of my teams’ performance. My first team was very patient with my transition, but the second team let me know their dissatisfaction and lack of motivation. I was making them feel in danger of being fired.

All I was doing was communicating negative performance issues, due to my passion for improvement. Because I was micro-managing, I was focusing on the performance and just communicating that a change was needed. I should have focused on the employee and addressing the cause of the performance. Looking at every detail caused the employees to fear every action. Never knowing if they were doing well left them insecure in their performance. With fearing every action, they lost track of any process that they used. This was because they were following my example of looking at the final picture rather than how they got there. Too much focus on not achieving expectations resulted in them also feeling victimized and without a hope of success. I am not saying that everything with this management style is wrong. I am, however, saying that I did not know how to use it effectively.

The definition of micro-management is being a management style where a manager closely observes or controls the work of his or her subordinates or employees. Micromanagement generally has a negative connotation (1). With close observation, you also see excessive control of a person through the attention to minor detail. You typically see a loss of identification for the IMPORTANT details and the management style is compared to a socially acceptable bully. However, according to an article in the well-respected Magazine FORBES, this style of management can be most effective in certain situations of policy, personnel, or performance change (2). In exploring the positive traits of micro-management, we see that when there is a change in business policies, it is important to ensure that employees are putting it into practice by scrutinizing this area of daily life. It is also important if you are trying to suggest performance changes, that you observe the questionable performance to break any negative habits. If you have a new person or team, the expectations need to be revealed, enforced, and followed so that new habits are created. Lastly, if an employee receives a serious complaint, observations must be made to identify and resolve the complaint area. This shows that there are some significant purposes and needs for area of micro-management to be applied. It needs to be said though that for this style to work with most people you need to make sure that a master/ servant dynamic is not created. This would create negative progress for this leadership style. This can be avoided my making sure explanations are provided to reasons so that you are working towards a direction together.

Micro-management as a leadership style can belong to any leader and as such needs to be used with the utmost care to ensure employees continue to feel valued. Some positions that could be identified with are a person who plans out every detail or an employer or parent who expects something done without flexibility on how the task is completed. Again, this is not always wrong, but by definition is always controlling.

After my team had enough of me micro-managing their performance they met with my manager and me to identify their feelings. They expressed that they felt Unappreciated, unvalued, and victimized. This broke my heart because it was not my intention to make them feel this way. I only wanted to help them be successful, and in turn be successful myself. I wanted to be like a family and mediate for them to the company and vice versa. Because of their feelings, I stopped looking at performance and allowed them to manage it themselves. The way I did this was to print out the details and give them the expectation of reviewing it, to apply personal changes. This worked because the majority of my employee’s held themselves to higher expectations due to their tenure. They managed their performance well. For the others, however, the lack of discipline allowed them to get away with performance gaps that they were no longer held to.

Macro-manage(ment) is defined as the act of leading decision makers According to the Webster’s dictionary(3). A macro-manag(er) is described as “managing the system; focusing on the constraints, rules, and architecture.” This is to say that a manager using the macro-management leadership style focuses on identifying the structural elements behind individual approaches. This gives an employee the opportunity to make choices along the way. Once a person builds those habits, after their own personal decision, they are more likely to approve of their own decisions and follow through with the specific actions longer.

The positive traits of macro-management are that they are not taking an authoritative roll of their employees or people they are responsible for. A macro-manager gets to motivate others to think on their own and build themselves up from being followers. This process of self-identification allows them to self asses and become leaders on their own. They also delegate more frequently to allow others to be in charge of important tasks, which frees up more time for the leader and allows the delegated person to grow in various areas of leadership. This entrustment, however, does require a trust or act of faith on part of the leader. This brings us to the faulty traits of macro-management.

Macro-management can lead to a lack of supervision causing the less disciplined to not meeting performance expectations (4). With this lack of supervision it is impossible to know the actions of each employee. If you allow 12 different people to make their own set of instructions on the best way to do something, most likely you will have 12 different ways resulting in inconsistency through lack of direction. This causes confusion and poor workmanship because there is no standard between employees. In fact those lacking motivation may not even work without the appropriate management.

A positive example of a macro-manager could be one who leads a meeting similar to that of a director, identifying with his team that their social network involvement is lower than their competitions, and asking what could be done about that. He/she is leaving decisions of others but identifying a direction they need to go in. Now, if his team lacked motivation and free thought, this may not be affective; but if they do have motivation, this will inspire a brainstorming that will improve the business. A class led by a macro manager would be similar to an instructor asking their class how this applies to them and enjoying the free thought that follows. So, how do we achieve the focus of the micro manager while also using the empowerment of the macro manager?

They were two very different styles of management, weren’t they? However, they are very similar as well. Now that we have identified what macro and micro management are, we can start to answer the question of “what style of management is the best?”As we have clarified, there are positives and negatives of each leadership style. It is my argument that it is the best style of management to use both of these, depending on the outcome you are looking for and the person you are managing. A good leader should be aware of this need and flexible enough to change his style to his audience. As Bill Willard says, “Micro-manage because you must, macro-manage because you can” (5).

John Wooden, historical Coach of the UCLA basketball team, created a hybrid of management when dealing with his team. He held them to higher expectations, enforcing micro-management, but allowed them free thought by teaching them the principles. Finely, during regular games he let go of the rains, so to speak, and allowed them free thought to create flexible plays (6). This led John to start a season off strong with hard core player management and regime (micro-management). Through the season he taught his players process and purpose and allowed them to think on their own under stress making their plays unpredictable (macro-management). Meaning that someone couldn’t review past plays to know for sure how they would act. This, however, does not mean that he would not still review the performance of each person to identify improvement opportunities. A good manager will always be aware. Being aware, we need to make sure not to overwhelm with negative opportunities. When identifying opportunities, a moderate number, like two or three, should be chosen for the person to work on. Work with the individual to achieve success through communication and practice. After the success is achieved other opportunities can be identified to work on. This sets the habit of building on your performance and self-identification, enabling the person to apply personal improvement. Eventually, after habit is built, management of this person becomes easier.

Scott Belsky, the founder and CEO of Behance, directs his readers to understand that as a manager you must build habits for the day to day grind by micro managing but you must also plan for the businesses “tomorrow” through macro management and allowing some delegation of responsibility and performance. “Great management happens on both a macro and micro level (7).” Vic Burrack, online author and contributor, says “The flexibility to apply both techniques as needed gives any level manager higher positive gains as they are then seen by all levels in the company as having the willingness to flexibly lead, manage and assist teams and individuals in succeeding at the tasks needed (8).

Furthermore to effectively use and combine these leadership styles we must employ open communication to correctly identify the opportunities and the struggles. We must consider the point of view of the person being managed or they may not understand the direction they are being put on. Through the open communication you can create a dialogue that ensures a mutual understanding and breaks down the barriers of miscommunication.

I will close by supporting my statement that to best manage others you must incorporate both styles of leadership. With the support of this review I conclude that the best style of management is going to be a combination of macro-management and micro-management. One, to build expectation and success, while the other, allows self-identification and maintenance, to achieve success.

When returning to the bar at their designated time, both managers had a new since of vigor for leading others. However, instead of returning as self-assure managers, they returned as students. Eager to learn, process, and practice what the other had to offer.

(1) (Chambers, Harry. "Micromanagement." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 Jan. 2012. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micromanagement>.)

(2) (Riodan, Christine M. "Sometimes Micromanaging Is Good--And Necessary." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 29 July 2010. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/29/micromanage-employees-delegate-leadership-managing-staff.html>.)

(3) (Macromanagement." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Feb. 2012. Web. 02 Mar. 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macromanagement> .)

(4) (Arthurs, Katrina. "What Is the Difference Between Micro & Macro Management?" EHow. Demand Media, 11 June 2011. Web. 02 Mar. 2012. http://www.ehow.com/info_8579978_difference-between-micro-macro-management.html>.)

(5) Willard, Bill. "Micro Manage When You Must; Macro Manage Because You Can." Micro Manage When You Must; Macro Manage Because You Can. The Freestyle Entrepreneur, 26 May 2009. Web. 04 Mar. 2012. http://www.thefreestyleentrepreneur.com/issue-of-the-week/micro-manage-when-you-must-macro-manage-because-you-can/>.

(6) Goff, Brian. "The John Wooden School of Management." The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 10 June 2010. Web. 04 Mar. 2012. http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/The-Sports-Economist/2010/0610/The-John-Wooden-school-of-management>.

(7) Belsky, Scott. "American Express OPEN Forum." Openforum.com. Openforum.com, 11 Aug. 2010. Web. 04 Mar. 2012. http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/managing/article/the-secret-to-great-macro-management-1>.

(8) Burrack, Vic. "A Time and a Place for Micromanagement and Macromanagement." Yahoo! Contributor Network. Yahoo! Contributor Network, 17 Apr. 2010. Web. 04 Mar. 2012. http://voices.yahoo.com/a-time-place-micromanagement-6609912.html>.


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