How to Recognize & Remedy Micromanagement


How can you tell the difference between good leadership and micromanagement? Pastor Dan Reiland shares three practices to help you avoid the latter.

Everyone can’t be led in the same way. When leading one person, more direction or follow-up may be perfectly appropriate and needed. But for another, it’s micromanagement.

If someone is new to the team, learning a new skill, or perhaps slipping in commitment and does not seem to have their head and heart fully in the game, staying closer to them and their work is needed. That is not micromanagement; its good leadership. The point however, is not to catch them messing up; it is to coach them so they improve.

On the other hand, if you have a proven leader who is skilled at their job, has a great attitude, and gets their job done, monitoring their work too closely can indeed be micromanaging. It’s a fine line, however, because you need to stay close enough to be in touch, encourage and offer guidance when needed. But don’t crowd them with too many questions, constantly checking up and telling them how to do their job.

Cues to possible micromanagement:

You struggle with trust.

Perhaps someone close to you has let you down, consistently fallen short of meeting their responsibilities, or even hurt you. It can be difficult to trust that person again. But it’s important to not ascribe that experience to other staff and leaders around you. Extend trust freely until its broken.

You are a perfectionist.

There is a fine line of distinction between excellence and perfectionism. Excellence involves high standards that increase productivity and positive outcomes. Perfectionism involves levels of detail that go beyond any improvement of productivity or increased outcomes.

You have a need to know everything.

I can remember as a young pastor feeling responsible to have answers to any question about the church’s ministries and programs. As the church grew it was important to let that desire go and trust my development and empowerment of the team. If you want to rise in your leadership, you simply can’t know everything. Focus on your best contributions that help the organization move forward.

You allow your passion to outpace the standard flow of work.

You get so excited about something that you “check” on it’s progress way more often than is needed. This is innocent enough but can still have negative outcomes. There’s nothing wrong with checking in, but a better practice is to ask your staff (paid or volunteer) to let you know when a certain thing is accomplished rather than you repeatedly asking.

You want to control beyond what is helpful.

Leaders carry the responsibility to control things like the big picture vision and direction, the overall budget, and the culture of the church. But if you are tempted to control things to the point of telling people how to do their job, making things go your way, or frequently changing things at the last minute regardless of the consequences, your influence may diminish.

You are more interested in compliance than progress.

I’m not a rule or policy lover by nature, but I understand their importance. They are needed for any organization to function well. However, if you place more emphasis on doing things right, rather than doing the right things, your leadership will suffer.

None of these 6 cues alone is a sure sign of micromanaging. But the more you add to your list, the greater the likelihood you may be micromanaging.

Three practices to help make sure you don’t micromanage:

1) Practice trust over skepticism.

If you can give yourself to trust your team and believe the best until trust is broken, you will find that for most people, trust is never broken! Mistrust never inspires the behavior you want.

2) Practice development over directives.

Training is crucial in avoiding micromanaging. The more you develop the person the less you need to direct them.

3) Practice empowerment over control.

Once trust and development are in place, you are ready to empower. Empowerment is not cutting someone loose to do whatever they want. That’s why you need clear job descriptions. But empowerment does trust the person with enough authority to get the job done without tight supervision.


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