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Micromanagement: The Unpopular Truth You Need to Hear

Micromanagement – a term that often sends shivers down the spines of engineers. It's a topic that's been debated extensively, and opinions vary. Nat Friedman, the former CEO of GitHub, said: "The cultural prohibition on micromanagement is harmful." This got me thinking about our collective aversion to micromanagement and how it might sometimes prevent us from effective management.

In my experience, when interviewing or onboarding new team members, one common question I ask is about their least favorite management behavior. It's no surprise that the majority respond with "micromanagement." It's almost a buzzword for managerial overreach. However, it's essential to recognize that micromanagement is a spectrum. What one engineer considers micromanagement, another might perceive as necessary guidance.

As leaders, our fear of being labeled as micromanagers often leads us to choose the path of non-intervention when faced with the binary choice of micromanagement or hands-off management. It's a decision rooted in our early career education, where we were repeatedly taught that micromanagement is the root of all evil.

When you don't actively manage, you're in the dark about the project's progress and the team's alignment with your goals. It's like navigating a ship without a compass; you may drift aimlessly. This is where the paradox of micromanagement comes into play. Sometimes, providing more structure and oversight helps keep things on track and navigate away from confusion.

Now, I'm not advocating for heavy-handed micromanagement. It's crucial to strike a balance. Micromanagement should be a temporary tool, not a permanent state of affairs. When you encounter resistance from your team members, it's a sign to step back and reassess your approach. Effective management is about adapting to the needs and preferences of your team.

The true essence of effective leadership lies in adaptation. Each team member is unique, and successful management means experimenting with various approaches tailored to their individual needs. The ultimate takeaway is that we should never cease managing altogether, even if it entails the risk of sliding into micromanagement territory. Instead, let's embrace the fluidity of management, adjusting our methods as required. After all, the worst management might just be no management at all.

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