Hands-On Managers vs. Micromanagers: Differences and Tips for Improvement

Let’s face it. Paying attention to details and making sure the work is getting done are important. So it’s easy to chalk all of the above up to a necessary part of managing. But they aren’t necessary all the time. The problem with micromanagers is that they apply the same level of intensity, scrutiny and in-your-face approach to every task, whether warranted or not. The bottom line is: you need to stop. It’s harming your team’s morale and – ultimately – their productivity.

While micromanaging may get you short-term results, over time it negatively impacts your team, your organization, and yourself. You dilute your own productivity and you run out of capacity to get important things done. You stunt your team members’ development and demoralize them. You create an organizational vulnerability when your team isn’t used to functioning without your presence and heavy involvement.

2. Let it go. The difference between managing and micromanaging is the focus on the “micro.” At the core of moving away from micromanaging is letting go of the minutia. This can be hard, but the key is to do it a little at a time. Start by looking at your to-do list to determine what low hanging fruit you can pass on to a team member. Engage in explicit discussions with your direct reports about what level of detail you will engage in and where they will need to pull you in. You should also highlight the priorities on your list — the big ticket items where you truly add value — and make sure that is where you are spending most of your energy.

3. Give the “what,” not the “how.” There is nothing wrong with having an expectation about a deliverable. But there’s a difference between sharing that expectation and dictating how to get to that result. Your job as a manager is to clearly set the conditions of satisfaction for any task you assign. Articulate what you envision the final outcome to look like, but don’t give blow-by-blow instructions on how to get there. When in doubt, share the “what” and ask (rather than tell) your team member about how they plan to get there. You might be surprised that their approach, while different, may yield excellent results.

4. Expect to win (most of the time). Underlying your need to micromanage is a fear of failure. By magnifying the risk of failure, your employees engage in “learned helplessness” where they start believing that the only way they can perform is if you micromanage them. It’s a vicious cycle. Instead, focus on setting your direct reports up for success. Be clear on what success looks like. Provide the resources, information, and support needed to meet those conditions. Give credit where credit is due. Over time, you’ll realize that a loss every now and then helps build a strong track record in the long run.

What is the difference between managing and micromanaging?

MY BOSS IS A MICROMANAGER | How to deal with micromanagers

Benefits of hands-on management

The benefits of being a hands-on manager can include:

Improving relationships with employees

One benefit of being a hands-on manager is that it can help you improve your relationships with your employees. Hands-on managers typically trust their employees and give them freedom to do their jobs independently. Hands-on managers are also there for their employees when they have questions or issues. This can increase trust and help you build a strong and productive relationship with your employees.

Increasing productivity and quality of work

Being a hands-on manager can also help you increase your workplaces productivity and quality of work. Hands-on managers stay involved with their employees and often complete some of the same tasks. This can help them ensure that employees meet productivity goals and maintain a high quality of work.

Strengthening leadership

Another benefit of being a hands-on manager is that it can strengthen your leadership. Hands-on managers build relationships with employees and motivate them, which are characteristics of great leaders. Becoming a good leader can help you excel in your career and lead your employees to achieve goals.

What is a hands-on manager?

A hands-on manager is a manager who interacts with their employees frequently and stays highly involved in their workplace. Hands-on managers give their employees freedom to do their jobs, but they intervene when necessary. Often, hands-on managers do the same work as their employees, and they know how to lead by example.

What is a micromanager?

A micromanager is a manager who is highly involved with their employees and supervises them excessively. This type of manager usually has good intentions and cares about the success of their team, but they could improve their management by giving their employees more freedom. You can identify this type of leader by spotting characteristics like:

Hands-on managers vs. micromanagers

Hands-on managers and micromanagers are similar, as the latter is typically a hands-on manager who becomes overly involved with their employees work. Therefore, if you want to improve as a manager, its important to understand the major differences between the two management styles, including:


One of the major differences between hands-on managers and micromanagers is the ability to set boundaries. Often, micromanagers struggle to set boundaries, and they supervise employees closely as they complete tasks. However, hands-on managers stay involved with their employees while setting boundaries. They trust their employees and give them freedom to complete their work while staying available if their employees need help.

Employee relationships

Hands-on managers and micromanagers often have different relationships with their employees, as hands-on managers typically have high levels of trust with their employees and collaborate with them to achieve goals. Managers who display micromanagement, however, often ask for frequent updates from their employees and watch them closely rather than trusting them and giving them autonomy.


Another difference between the two management styles is delegation. Often, micromanagers avoid delegating tasks to their employees. However, hands-on managers typically trust their employees and feel comfortable delegating certain tasks to them. This can allow hands-on managers to focus on other tasks and projects.

Tips for being a hands-on manager

Here are some tips you can use to improve your leadership style and be a hands-on manager:

Improve your leadership skills

One tip for being a hands-on manager is to improve your leadership skills. Hands-on managers are good leaders, and they possess leadership skills like communication, relationship building and critical thinking. You can develop these skills by taking leadership courses or reading leadership books and articles.

Motivate your employees

Another tip for being a hands-on manager is to motivate your employees. Motivating your employees can allow you to stay involved with them while giving them autonomy, which is freedom over their work. You can motivate your employees by understanding what motivates each individual employee and trying motivation tactics like performance incentives or employee of the month programs.

Intervene when necessary

As a hands-on manager, its important to intervene when necessary. When your employees need help, make sure youre there to help them. Stay involved with them so that you know when you need to intervene, but try not to intervene when your employees can handle tasks on their own. This can promote trust and autonomy.

Strengthen your decision-making and problem-solving skills

Another tip for being a hands-on manager is to strengthen your decision-making and problem-solving skills. These skills are essential for great leaders and managers. You can strengthen these skills by creating processes to make decisions and solve problems in the workplace. You can also reflect on your past problems and decisions to see how you can improve.

Invest in employee development

Investing in employee development is another way that you can be a hands-on manager. Investing in employee development can help you lead your employees to improve at their jobs and advance within your company. This can increase your workplaces productivity and allow you to delegate high-level tasks to certain employees.


What is worse than a micromanager?

Essentially, a picomanager is 1000 times worse than a micromanager, but let’s not get hung up on the math involved. Let’s do focus more on what makes someone that unique type of micromanager that is 1000 times worse.

What is a hands-on management style?

Hands-on management loosely refers to a manager who’s highly involved in the day-to-day activities and decisions of their team. At best, they’re a pro-active presence who’s continually encouraging and motivating their team members to promote problem-free, productive operations.

What are the signs of a micromanager?

7 signs of micromanagement
  • Not seeing the wood for the trees. …
  • Every task needs approval. …
  • An obsession with constant updates. …
  • Difficulty delegating. …
  • The need to be cc’d into every single email. …
  • Over complicates instructions. …
  • The belief that no one is else is capable.

Are micromanagers control freaks?

Paranoid incompetent micromanagers (aka control freaks), who successfully combine tight control of minute details/procedures used in performing assignments with toxic incompetence are the most common type of corporate psychopaths.

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