How to be an effective consultant to a micromanager

I do believe that some Western cultures are critical of micromanagement because of the value placed on empowering the individual. Many Eastern cultures allow the leader to manage as s/he wants, because its his/her job to be strong and protect us.

I do not personally hold micro managers in disdain.I have experienced many “high level” US based managers managing abroad who have been screwed royally because they don’t get the details.

This having been said, I have worked with several micro managers who wanted to be “cured” . In this short post, I shall share the strategy I chose in three cases in which I was successful.

British born and US based Ralph approached me because 5 of his 8 direct reports rated him on a company survey very poorly, adding that he was a chronic micro-manager. I interviewed all Ralph’s staff and confirmed the diagnosis. Luckily for me as a consultant, many of Ralph’s direct reports were Dutch and Israeli, who have no problem confronting Ralph’s authority. I told Ralph that every three months for two years, we would meet for a two day offsite during which there would be only one subject-“examples where Ralph has micromanaged”. After three offsites, there was vast improvement, as reported by Ralph’s direct reports.

Farid , an Arab Israeli managing 3 Jewish Israelis and 3 Brits, approached me via his sister who had been in one of my lectures. As is the case in many minority managers, Farid is very very smart and even more ambitious. Yet his top people kept quitting because “he thinks he knows everyone’s job better than they do.” . My guess was that for many reasons, Farid and his direct reports would not engage in open dialogue. So I gave each of his direct reports three red flags. Each flag meant “butt out and let me do my job” (תתעופף ותן  לי לעבוד). Three flags a week (to be given to Farid personally)  were allotted to each direct report. . No dialogue was allowed, just the flag. The change that took place was astounding.

Harry approached me because the CEO told him that he would never get to be CEO because no one liked working for him. “Harry, you are a fucking control freak, get help”. Harry, a very cerebral type, responded well to my intervention which was based on insight. Harry needed to  understand that due to his micromanagement, he has lost control. Once Harry cognitively understood that gaining control by letting go was the counter intuitive path to take, his behaviour slowly changed.

I think it is important for me to disclose that many of micro-managers with whom have worked with have been exceptionally good managers who have achieved stunning results over time.

I also want to disclose that personally I am not only a very bad manager because I am VERY impatient, but I am a chronic incurable micro manager. But I have insight as to why! 🙂

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8 thoughts on “How to be an effective consultant to a micromanager

  1. Excellent! Allon.

    Love that “gaining control by letting go” How true!

    Joseph George also shared the article you did for his OD magazine. That was a great read, full of powerful insights.

    Cordially,

    Ed
    Drive On!

  2. Allon –

    Some brilliant insight and approaches. I love this post – it is so hard to balance the need to have information with letting staff have the right amount of autonomy.

    Very insightful.

    Maggy.

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