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At work, micromanagement is generally frowned upon but what is macromanagement? We take a look at these two approaches and discuss why leaders taking a more 'hands-off' approach might lead to better results.

As a leader, do you find yourself supervising every work task and directing each output or are you just focused on the end result? If you often concentrate on the detail and holding your worker's hands to achieve results, then chances are you are a ‘micromanager’.

Characteristics of micromanagement

Micromanagers are notorious for being detail orientated and directing their teams closely to ensure success.  They are never surprised about results because they have checked in with employees every step of the way. 

Whilst micromanagement may be appropriate  for a new employee, or one who is struggling, in many scenarios it can lead to:

  • Employees becoming stressed and disengaged
  • A lack of innovation and creativity as the manager does the thinking
  • Employees feeling like they cannot achieve the results without their manager
  • A break down in the manager-employee relationship as some employees will feel that they are not empowered, trusted and supported to be successful

It is not good news for the manager either. Leaders who micromanage tend to have other issues:

  • They waste time on unnecessary reports, meetings and follow ups
  • They have issues with delegation as in their view, no one can do the job as well as them
  • If delegation does occur it usually comes with endless instructions
  • They have issues with trust and feel the need to check employees are working 
  • They generally don’t like employees making their own decisions as it doesn’t make them feel needed

Leadership is not an easy job and leaders of today are required to adapt to a whole range of complexities in order to deliver business results. 

Leaders who are too laid back run the risk of not knowing what is going on, missing deadlines and accepting mediocracy. On the flipside, leaders who micromanage can overwork and overmanage employees, leading to resentment and a lack of innovation. Some leaders are drawn to micromanagement because they were managed that way themselves and for others the desire to micromanage comes from a fear of team failure.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that consistent micromanagement sends a clear message that employees cannot be trusted and that they don’t have the capability to succeed on their own.

So, what is the alternative?


A macromanager is a type of leader who takes a more hands-off approach and empowers employees to do their jobs with minimal direct supervision. A macromanager will provide support to the employee whilst trusting them to be left alone to complete the task. They are interested in the job being done, but not interested in the details or close monitoring. This style of leadership is referred to as macromanagement. 

Macromanagers are famous for mapping out the big picture and asking employees to fill in the details. It is considered a ‘hands off’ approach whereby the employee assumes responsibility of asking for direction when needed and delivering the task on time.

There is, however, a difference between ‘hands off’ and ‘leaving employees to fend for themselves’. Macromanagers provide the direction, big picture and desired result – but also provide the support. 

What are the important skills for a macromanager?

The macromanager is very much focussed on the ‘end game’ and is not too concerned about the road travelled to get there. It is about trust, empowerment and support when required.

Macromanagers share a common approach by:

  • Focusing on the deliverable or outcome – not on the ‘how’
  • Encouraging their team to be creative, innovative and to search for the right solution 
  • Knowing when to support and when to let employees be. It is tempting to provide solutions, but a macro manager will instead encourage their team in the right direction to find the answer themselves
  • Being clear with desired expectations and deliverables from the beginning so each employee understands the ‘end game’
  • Sharing timelines, resource information and known obstacles upfront 

Tips for effective macromanagement 

  1. Begin with the end goal – macromanagers focus on whether or not the task was achieved. They are not interested in the ‘how’ or ‘why’ – just the end result.
  2. Create the space for magic to happen – it is difficult for employees to impress when they are micromanaged as the manager knows their every move. Creating space for employees to shine allows leaders to see hidden talents or underutilised skills. 
  3. Empower, empower, empower! – when employees feel their manager trusts them they are empowered to make decisions, take risks and reach new levels of success. Sometimes greatness comes at the end of the comfort zone and employees who are empowered to take the leap might just uncover great results.
  4. Be the navigator and not the driver – great macromanagers know when to point out obstacles on the road ahead whilst resisting the temptation to ‘take the wheel’. When employees come to a ‘dead end’ use open questions and brainstorming to help them find their way back to the open road!

Is macromanagement always better?

Without question, macromanagement has fast become a popular leadership style embraced by employers across multiple industries, however, there needs to be a balance.  Whilst strong performing employees will always find their way to the destination, some employees become lost on their journey. This can create chaos and missed deadlines.

It is recommended that leaders adapt to the individual needs and the situation. As an example, when there are tight deadlines, complex issues or new employees – a degree of micromanagement will help keep tasks on course. Similarly, where there are constantly changing priorities, disruptors and critical deliverables, it is important that the leader can stay close enough to ensure team success. 

Why macromanagement could be just what your organisation needs

Ultimately, macromanagers have a place in every organisation as they cultivate innovation and creativity whilst empowering employees to be their best.

Some organisations rely heavily on micromanagement as there is a fear that results won’t be achieved or teams will become lazy or complacent without strong and regular direction. 

This is a dangerous mindset as employers will never fully realise the talent and potential of their employees whilst they are being restrained  from above. It can  be scary as a leader to let go of the reins, but it can be rewarding when employees are given the chance to choose their path to success as employees will be likely to:

  • be more productive;
  • produce higher quality work;
  • be more engaged; and
  • demonstrate skills in the business that they are not even paid to use.

Perhaps it’s time that organisations release the temptation to micromanage and consider what a workplace culture could look like if every employee felt trusted, empowered and supported to reach the end result. Sure, the stakes might seem high to loosen the leadership grip – but perhaps the real risk is in holding on too tight.

Further assistance

Ai Group offers a range of short course management and leadership training programs that have been designed to assist the development of participants through their management and leadership journey.

Check out our 'Leadership and Management Training' area for further information or call the Ai Group Workplace Advice Line on 1300 55 66 77. 


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