Being a Sales Manager is one of the toughest jobs there is. Few other jobs have as many competing interests to consider. Few roles have the pressures coming from as many different stakeholders. Few positions carry as much burden for the company’s financial success.
But the hardest part of the job is striking the balance between not enough and too much management of a skilled sales force.
This is particularly true for a new Sales Manager. Micromanaging is a fallback position, one that often indicates the manager isn’t entirely removed from the front-line action. Since Sales Managers retain responsibility for goal attainment and sales performance, it’s easy for them to slip into an overly granular look at all things related to day-to-day sales activities.
However, there is a fine line between micromanaging and simply doing the work of a Sales Manager. I’ve seen a lot of Sales Managers (and other managers, too) unfairly labeled as micromanagers. Before you put your Sales Manager into this category, it’s worth stepping back to understand what is and is not actually micromanaging behavior.
First, consider your point of view. The sales profession is attractive to many people who strongly prefer to work autonomously. Many sellers simply do not like being told what to do and how to do their work. But your preferences do not automatically make your Sales Manager a micromanager.
Second, consider the needs you present to your Sales Manager. If you have a high need for praise and ask a lot of questions to fish for compliments, you will seem to be requiring more directive inputs. The people who are often most unhappy in the workplace are the ones who want freedom and yet simultaneously ask for frequent interaction and feedback.
In other words, there may be a trade-off. When you ask for independence and expect to be entrusted with a high degree of self-direction, you should also expect and accept less time and attention. Additionally, understand that asking for more interaction and feedback means you will get it when you’ve made a mistake or where there is room for improvement, too. Being corrected is not the same as being micromanaged.
Third, consider what’s being asked of you and why. You may not enjoy every task assigned (that’s why they call it “work”). You may not like the priorities, deadlines or processes required of you. Your dissatisfaction with what you are asked to do, when you are asked to do it or how you are to do it does not necessarily mean that your boss is a micromanager. In fact, chances are that he or she is simply passing along processes and priorities and deadlines due to customer demands or other pressures.
Next, it’s not micromanaging if there is a certain standard set for your performance. Those standards are put in place for many reasons, chiefly because setting a standard typically helps the seller or employee who is being asked to meet the standard. Standards ensure consistency and alignment, reduce costs, streamline workflow and more.
Finally, it’s not micromanaging if you are reminded of policies, procedures or practices that you have failed to adhere to. You may not like hearing a repeated instruction, and you may even feel defensive if that reminder seems like an assessment of your performance. However, it is your manager’s job to see that things are done in a manner that serves the company (not you) well.
Saying your Sales Manager is a micromanager is all too often a blame game. You are blaming your boss for your own dissatisfaction, lack of compliance, unwillingness to “play by the rules,” or resentment for having to do things you’d rather not do.
Blaming your boss and saying things like “I’m a professional. I don’t need to be micromanaged” is unproductive. You will not get the job satisfaction you are looking for if you pass the responsibility for your own satisfaction off this way.
Before you label your manager as a micromanager, consider the label(s) you may need to own instead. Are you, perhaps, a diva? A lone wolf? A rebel? If so, own your own label and behaviors rather than blaming others.
True micromanagement is defined as “a high degree of control with constant attention to small and insignificant details.” Micromanagers typically choose this approach because they are unable to trust the people they are scrutinizing and/or unable to let go of control because they have a fear of consequences should a mistake be made.
Micromanagement is not measured by to-do lists, feedback and correction, or enforcement of requirements. Sales Managers who micromanage are easy to spot because they spend inordinate amounts of time watching sellers do their work and focusing on minute details at every pass.
Maybe your manager isn’t a micromanager. Before you jump to that conclusion, think it through.
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Editor's Note: This post was originally published November 2013 and has been recently updated.