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How Executive Coaching Programs Can Offset the Evils of Micromanagement

How Executive Coaching Programs Can Offset the Evils of Micromanagement

Executive coaching programs can take many forms. Some coaching consists of little more than scheduled chats with an experienced C-suite leader. Other coaching programs offer a well-structured, goal-oriented format led by a professional coach. Both types have merit. However, to truly develop leaders, experts in talent development strongly prefer the latter type.  A professional coach is more focused on achieving measurable results in a finite time frame.


Common Objectives for Leadership Coaching Programs

IMPACT Group’s coaching programs are highly focused on the goals that are most relevant to the leader. Common areas of growth include:

  • Strengthening self-awareness to lead oneself
  • Strengthening emotional intelligence (EQ) to better lead others
  • Setting key learning goals to drive the business


Old-School Beliefs About Executive Coaching Programs

Traditionally, executive coaching programs were a solution to fix executives’ toxic behaviors. As an example, COO Joe Smith has an anger issue, turnover is high among his employees, and some employee complaints have necessitated monetary settlements. But while this issue is costing the company money, he operates the most profitable division of the company. And, he is the only one with the domain expertise to lead this division. In the past, the common solution was often an executive coaching program to remedy the bad behavior.

Today, leadership coaching is offered proactively, as a developmental tool – and not only for executives. It’s been proven to help people leverage strengths and ready themselves for roles of greater responsibility.  So coaching is no longer viewed as a “remedial” solution.  Today’s executive coaching emphasis is used to build on leaders’ success, further develop potential, and help them produce better business results.

Now that we’ve level-set how executive coaching programs have evolved, let’s discuss many managers struggle with. Some leaders might not realize they’ve crossed the line, yet others may vehemently defend the reasons they do it. We’re talking about micromanagement. When it comes to leading themselves, leading others, and driving the business forward, leaders must be able to recognize and control behaviors that limit their effectiveness. And on the top of the list for many leaders is their own micromanagement tendencies.


The Evils of Micromanagement

Across corporate America, you will hear employees vilify leaders by labeling them as micromanagers. “I can’t stand her micromanagement.” Or “He just won’t let go. This micromanaging is killing us.” According to HBR’s, How to Help (Without Micromanaging), “Bosses who intervene too often or too extensively in their subordinates’ activities get a bad reputation, and most forward-thinking organizations have come to value employee autonomy more than oversight.”

According to HBR, “Research shows that people have strong negative emotional and physiological reactions to unnecessary or unwanted help and that it can erode interpersonal relationships.”*

Phillip Kotler, author and distinguished professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, said the tendency to micromanage could mean that you hired the wrong people or failed to give them a clear idea of what each one is to accomplish. Kotler advises managers to develop employees’ self-management skills, rather than over-manage.

Employees who are micromanaged often sense a lack of trust, which can lead to deteriorating performance.

Diane Dreher, author of “The Tao of Leadership,” writes, “Micromanaging erodes people’s confidence, making them overly dependent on their leaders. Well-meaning leaders inadvertently sabotage their teams by rushing to the rescue and offering too much help.” Leaders, she says, need to let people learn from their mistakes.


Finding a Sustainable Solution for Micromanagement

No one wants to be known as a micromanager. But no one wants to be that person who dumps assignments on their teams then disappears when the group has questions either.

So how can leaders nip micromanagement in the bud while still providing meaningful, constructive insight? Two words – executive coaching.


How Do Executive Coaching Programs Help?

Helping leaders gain awareness of the micromanagement problem – through performance reviews and 360° assessment feedback – isn’t enough to cure the problem. Even when leaders know they tend to micromanage, it’s not easy for them to change this behavior on their own. Working with a management coach often gets better and far more sustainable results than just feedback or content-based training.

Through an executive coaching program, leaders get specific feedback and encouragement. The micromanager will learn not just how to recognize their meddling, but also how to let their employees push projects forward on their own.

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The Growing Use of External Executive Coaching Programs

Coaching programs have become a secret weapon when it comes to developing leaders at all levels – including executives, mid-level, and frontline leaders. According to IMPACT Group’s study, 2021 Trends in Developing Leadership, 48% of HR leaders surveyed say they plan to expand the use of coaching.

Providing professional external coaching to a broader base of leaders within the company builds more productive relationships. And it can help fill your succession pipelines.

Whether a leader is new or an experienced manager, coaching focuses on personal and professional development and can help prevent poor practices – such as micromanagement – before they arise.


Look for Coaching Programs with Rigor

An executive coach acts as a sounding board at times and can reinforce the adoption of new behaviors. But today’s executive coaching programs aren’t just about conversation.  A solidly structured executive coaching program is much more than setting up some scheduled calls or lunch with the coach.  

Any professional, certified coach worth their salt will adhere to a methodology to ensure organizations, and their talent, get the most out of the executive coaching program. A more rigorous coaching program might incorporate several development activities. All coaching programs should include at least a basic process or framework, which might include assessment, goal-setting, action, and accountability phases: 


Executive Coaching Programs Phase 1: Assessment

An external management coach may kick off the process by conducting personality or 360° degree assessments to get the full picture and help the leader increase self-awareness.


Executive Coaching Programs Phase 2:  Goal Setting

Next, they set goals for professional growth and agree on a plan to attain them.


Executive Coaching Programs Phase 3: Action

External executive coaching helps the manager apply insights and practice new behaviors. As an example, the coach can help the manager identify when it’s best to be involved in their employees’ work and when to give the employee more space.  The coach may ask the manager to experiment with a different technique or try a new approach.


Executive Coaching Programs Phase 4: Accountability

Coaching, especially when it’s coming from an external coach, can be invaluable in keeping managers accountable for putting new knowledge into practice.  Coaches ask follow-up questions. Managers, who by this time have established a good working relationship with their coach, are often eager to share their experiences and report outcomes.


Executive Coaching Programs Focus on Strengths

If you want to improve your leaders’ performance, executive coaching programs are a worthwhile investment.  Through executive coaching programs, leaders develop strengths. They will also learn about themselves and discover techniques to address performance-limiting behaviors, such as micromanagement.  But at its core, executive coaching programs are no longer seen as a “fix” for toxic behaviors.  It’s much more about developing strengths – such as the power to trust employees and delegate effectively.


Find Your Leadership Coaching Partner

IMPACT Group is a professional coaching firm that offers coaching at all levels of leadership – from the C-Suite to the frontline leader. Our clients see results.  As Steve Feira, vice president of human resources at M.J. Electric, said: “We wouldn’t be successful at developing our leaders without this program.”

IMPACT Group’s certified, seasoned, and dedicated coaches guide leaders to set and achieve meaningful development goals while leaving a legacy of learning. Learn how our scalable, coaching programs help M.J. Electric develop a new cohort of emerging leaders each year. 

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*Source: Harvard Business Review, How to Help (Without Micromanaging) by Colin M. Fisher, Teresa M. Amabile, and Julianna Pillemer, (January–February 2021) 




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