In April, 2014, Harvard Business Review published an article titled “Coaching the Toxic leader.” The author, an executive coach and psychotherapist, discussed “four pathologies that can hobble an executive and bring misery to the workplace.” He described narcissist (the most common and most pathological), manic-depressive, passive-aggressive, and emotionally-detached leaders.
Initially I decided not to mention the article in this newsletter but I did assign it for my coaching students and sent a copy to one of my clients who does executive coaching. Most loved the article and my coaching client described her experiences with all four pathological types. Then she suggested that the most harmful leaders are the micromanagers. These men and women need to be in control. They want to know every detail about the employees or projects they oversee. They watch others closely, want communication or decision making to flow through them, fail to trust others to make good decisions, and are reluctant to let people do their jobs. As employers or supervisors, micromanagers often dictate how subordinates should do their work, whether or not this is the most effective or efficient.
Usually micromanagers feel insecure in their leadership roles, doubting their own competence and overwhelmed by their responsibilities, although they fail to see or admit this. They want to appear capable and decisive but instead they can look like fearful people who won’t let go. They tend to dismiss the opinions of others and sometimes make decisions that are unwise and even destructive. Eventually they lose competent employees or partners who feel squelched, unappreciated and controlled – like puppets on a string.
Micromanagers can be of different types, including the overtly aggressive or the passive-aggressive who ignores or isolates others but then breathes down their necks. But micromanagers are not necessarily pathological. Their numbers even include coaches who control their clients. Often micromanagers are well-intentioned individuals who want to be successful. They resist anyone who criticizes their micromanagement but they need help in learning to trust people, to listen, to let go of the reins and to allow others contribute to their goals. Coaching can help them realize that controlling others is an ineffective leadership style. But are these people even coachable? Some executive coaches believe that micromanagers are too insecure to change, especially when they work in pressured environments.
What do you think? Can micromanagers be coached successfully? Please “comment” with your observations and experiences.