Micro-Management: A Dirty Word?


Micro-Management: A Dirty Word?
by Frank Lee

Nobody Likes a Micro-Manager!

Whenever someone mentions a micro-manager, people grimace. It’s as if this is a dirty word. Many times, they will remember a particular person who micro-managed them or someone else. These people are usually remembered unfavorably. Another term for a micro-manager is ‘detailed oriented’ which sounds better. Most micro-managers prefer this description. They see this as a positive management style. Their colleagues and employees see it for what it is. They regard the ‘detailed oriented’ person as a meddler who simply does not trust them to do their jobs properly. Sales people generally hate micro-managers. They prefer to be empowered — left to do the things they are most capable of doing.

Is Micro-Management Inherently Bad?

Used correctly, this tool can help would-be sales superstars reach their true potential. Used unwisely, it can severely limit good sales people. The truth is that many sales people only reach stardom after they have acquired the habits of success. These habits consist of doing the right things consistently. There is never a dispute among sales people as to what these habits are or whether or not they should do them. They always agree that they will be successful sales people if they perform these successful behaviors as a matter of habit. Many agree that they should do them even to be moderately successful in sales. However, agreement does not always translate into action.

This is where the good sales manager comes in. He or she will help the sales person to develop and cultivate the right successful behaviors specific to the career. They continue to develop these successful behaviors until they become successful habits. They use micro-management to do this by micro-managing behaviors.

Who Hates Micro-Management Most?

Paradoxically, those who hate micro-management the most are the very ones who would receive the most benefit from it. These are the sales people who are still struggling to reach their potential. They continue to struggle because they have not yet learned the habits of success. While they pay lip service to it, they fail to practice the things they know they should – and even preach. They talk a good game. They simply do not follow through because they lack the discipline.

Why do they hate it so much? Because it holds them accountable for their behaviors. They would much prefer to be left to their own devices no matter how destructive this can be. Accountability makes mediocre sales people very uncomfortable. They feel they are being treated like children.

Some sales people are ‘self-starters’, capable of motivating themselves. These sales people regularly outperform their peers. They hate micro-management because it limits their activities. They have earned the right, however, to be left alone – and empowered!

Who Should Be Micro-Managed – And Why?

Sales managers who come from a background of managing successful sales people have a great deal of difficulty when they take over a seemingly unmotivated sales force. They become frustrated when the things they did before no longer work. They tend to blame the poor quality of their new sales people. They would do well to use micro-management as a tool to get their sales people to the point where they are more comfortable. This means helping the sales people to develop successful selling behaviors and holding them accountable for these behaviors.

For example, in a motivated sales force, it is quite in order to tell them, “These are our targets. You are required to make x number of sales by the end of each month”, and then let them do whatever is necessary to reach the targets. Try that with a lesser sales force! I have seen managers do this. Sure, they help by teaching their sales people ratios, presentation skills, closing skills and all the other good things sales people should know. They then become frustrated when the sales people still do not perform up to standard. They will finally reach the conclusion that their sales people are simply not motivated. So they spend an enormous amount of money on a motivational ‘guru’ who will fire the sales people up for a week.

Perhaps they should look at managing behaviors and holding their sales people accountable for performing these behaviors. In the above example, they may require their sales people to make a defined number of phone calls, face-to-face calls or follow-up calls each day. They should require that their sales people prove that these behaviors have been done each day. They should institute a process for managing these behaviors so that they become part of the way the sales person does business. Only when they are satisfied that the sales person is now doing these behaviors as a matter of habit should they depart from the micro-management style. At this point, the sales person would have earned the right to be empowered.

Micro-Management Restraints

From the above, it can be seen that micro-management has limitations. There are, and should be, two limitations:

  • It should be applied selectively. Not all sales people require it.
  • There should be time constraints. A sales person who never comes off micro-management should be let go. The cost in time is simply not worth the investment.

A Final Word

If sales managers genuinely care for the sales people they manage, they will use different strategies for each individual sales person. Micro-management takes time and effort. Sales managers should remember that they are judged not by their own successes but by the successes of the sales people they manage.