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Feedback vs Micromanaging

I read a great deal about leadership. One consistent theme is that good leaders do not micromanage but do give honest and sometimes critical feedback. Both micromanaging and feedback include working closely with a colleague and making judgments about their work. They seem like close cousins but one is indicative of good leadership and the other of a poor leader. What is the difference?

One difference is the timing of the communication. Often micromanaging includes telling a colleague what and how to do a task before it starts and throughout the work. Feedback, on the other hand, tends to happen after the task is over. Feedback tends to look backwards to improve future performance while micromanaging tends to try to avoid present errors with no interest in improving performance. 

Another key difference is how information is conveyed. Micromanagers describe both the process and results expected in accomplishing the task.  Feedback pros tend to describe what they want accomplished and leave the process of getting there to the judgment person assigned the work. 

Closely related to the above is that micromanagers tend to tell while those giving feedback tend to ask. A micromanager will announce what went well and what went badly while a person giving feedback will ask the person doing the task about how they think it is going. This is not to say that the person giving feedback never makes suggestions but those suggestions are based on a dialogue not a monologue.  

Micromanagers tend to undercut trust and hurt morale. When a manager commands how to do the task and is not interested in input, he is undercutting the confidence of the person assigned the task. On the other hand, a feedback pro is seen as trusting the person assigned the task and being interested in helping her grow. By asking questions about what went well and what did not, the leader is showing trust and a desire to help the person doing the task grow. 

The bottom line is this: a leader who micromanages is interested in how they are perceived; the leader who gives feedback is interested in helping others grow. Which kind of leader are you?


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