How Micromanagement can take a Leader’s Eye off the Ball

I couldn't believe my eyes. As I drove up to the stadium for the second time Saturday night, there was our 18-0 state winning football coach grilling hamburgers before the game! SHOCK!

Why would the coach be anywhere but in the locker room? There are tons of us “unimportant” people out here who will grill hamburgers so he can do his important job: coaching the players.

Only one person can be the head coach – him!

Eye on the Ball
Whew! On closer look it wasn't him, but it struck me that I know micromanagers who are the same way.

As I walked into the game, I looked at the two teachers taking the money and pictured the head coach sitting there. As I went to the concession stand, I pictured my shock if he were behind the counter. As I walked up to the press box to help my student who is doing the sound for the games get ready, I pictured him getting ready to call the game and run the clock.

It just wouldn't be possible. Not only would it not be possible but shocks the senses to the point of thinking that if he did this, he'd be fired quickly for not doing the main thing and keeping his eye on the proverbial ball (pun intended.) He wouldn't be focusing on the big picture job of why we are all there.

Details are important. Certainly if someone wasn't taking money or wasn't doing their job in the press box, the head coach would deal with it after the game (he's our headmaster too.) But during the game for him to be anywhere but on the field coaching the players would be coaching malpractice.

Every day those in a leadership position who micromanage and have to “do” everything take their eye off the ball. Certainly a principal might make a good PA announcer or might be the only one who can keep the third grade in line or may be the only reason that Mrs. Robinson can keep her class in order. But if he's on the PA and always in Mrs. Robinson's class is he doing what he needs to be doing?

When I was general manager at Cellular One, I would answer the front telephone every so often just to see how my front lines were handling things, however, this was not something I did often. If the VP of the East region (my boss) called and I was answering the phone – who was focusing on the big picture? Management by walking around (the 5 minute manager) is great. It is good to be among your people, seeing what they are doing and giving them feedback. My principal is in my room at least 3 times a week and that is GREAT! I love it! (He came in yesterday while we were talking about Google's nGram viewer.)

But he doesn't come in an take over the class. He doesn't have to.

I know a micro-manager right now who has to do everything. This person has to literally control every aspect of her organization. She controls every word in the newsletter, she controls every knob for every piece of equipment in the whole facility. She picks people who will rubber stamp everything she wants. She has a complete inability to trust anyone who might have a different thought than she does.

Her organization is shrinking. She has taken her eye off the ball and is too busy grilling hamburgers and taking up concessions to coach the players in the game of the core mission of the organization.

You Kill Cooperation when You do People's Jobs for Them
The fact is that people who overly micromanage kill innovation and cooperation. What is the point? In the micromanager's organization you can never be the micromanager so why even try. Let them do it.

The organization shrinks and people stop volunteering or doing anything. Why should they? It will just be redone.

We need great teachers in our schools but we also need great leaders. We need leaders who can keep their eye on the ball and focus on the main mission of our schools.

While it is good to know an organization inside and out; if a person thinks he is the organization he is a liar and sadly deceived. The root word of organization is “organ.” My son is studying organs in his fourth grade science class and it is amazing how different types of tissues come together to make organs.

Leaders should lead and help us focus our organization on what we need to do as a team to get the job done. A leader cannot do our jobs for us because to move a team ahead it is bigger than just one man or one woman.


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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere