Setting Expectations vs Micromanagement

Understanding the Difference Will Transform your Organizational Culture

During a recent training session, we were discussing the importance of consistent performance documentation throughout an organization. This led to further discussion emphasizing the need for upper management to lead by example, set clear expectations, and monitor performance of down line supervisors. At one point during the conversation, a member of upper management commented, “I am not going to look and see what my supervisors are documenting…that is micromanagement.”

The manager’s indifferent attitude is like saying, “I don’t want to know what’s going on.” He’s content to let down line supervision operate as they see fit. What if each of his supervisors were to decide which policies their subordinates follow or ignore? Would the manager’s response be the same?

So, is checking performance really micromanaging? Is micromanagement:

  • implementing a process to improve or direct the organization?
  • training a down line supervisor?
  • monitoring progress?
  • mentoring or counseling a down line supervisor?

At Guardian Tracking, we would call it leadership.

It is not micromanagement to set high expectations for yourself and those who report to you. In his book, Measure of a Leader, author Aubrey Daniels states, “The leader who knows who is engaged in extra effort directed toward the organization’s goals and who then makes sure that those people receive effective reinforcement for such effort creates followers who will not only give discretionary effort toward the current goals, but who will thrive on even more challenging goals and objectives in the future.” So, it’s not micromanagement to monitor compliance within the organization. Consistent monitoring is critical with a new process, but becomes less important over time as the process is ingrained into the organizational culture. The danger of indifference is that a leader’s behavior really does flow down through all levels of the organization.

One of the most important aspects of leadership is ensuring the vision and goals of the organization are followed and accomplished. In order to establish an environment of success, upper level managers must maintain consistency throughout the organization. The task is finding a way to make sure that the same message reaches everyone in the organization. First and second level supervisors are critical to developing consistency.  Each level of supervision acts as a filter in determining what message is passed along to direct reports.

Recall the school game of Telephone — where a person is given a phrase to pass along from student to student and by the time the phrase reaches the last student, it is barely recognizable. Now, imagine if this game was played with a policy rather than a phrase. The end result could be extremely damaging to an organization. Policies can suffer the same fate of becoming barely recognizable when a culture of indifference is allowed to exist.

It has been said you are only leading if you have followers. If you don’t lead, someone else will; and it may be in a direction that’s detrimental to the organization. Leaders must constantly strive to focus behavior on the organization’s vision and goals. Without such focus, performance will slowly decline. Lack of such focus will also lead to inconsistency throughout the organization as different areas develop a perception of how things are supposed to work. Continued indifference will result in competing goals throughout the organization resulting in conflict and loss of harmony.

As you go through your daily routine, understand your subordinate supervisor and direct reports are the future of your organization. You have it within your ability to impact that future through the leadership you demonstrate today. Set expectations and a good example for others — these efforts will leave a lasting impact on your organization of good leadership, not micromanagement.