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May 4, 2011 • Athletic Administration

How micromanagement hurts athletic directors

While you may not be able to precisely define it, most understand the feeling of being micromanaged. It creates a difficult work environment.

Micromanagement is a disruptive and counterproductive management style that negates creativity, initiative and perhaps even drive. Most individuals aren’t going to step outside narrow limits if they are going to be chastised or questioned.

The simplest and most basic approach by the employee — or coaches — is to conform and follow directions in an attempt to meet the supervisor’s expectations. This, of course, is not the best approach for the success of an athletic program.

Also, micromanagement does not enhance or develop leadership skills, and this makes it even somewhat ironic. Developing leaders and enhancing their skills has certainly been at the forefront of school systems and athletic administration for years. One does not become a better leader by constantly being instructed and directed by a supervisor.

While most administrators want to see things done in a proper manner, everyone makes an occasional mistake. Actually, that’s part of being human. If you are allowed to learn from your mistakes, you’re going to be better at your job. Micromanagement takes this basic method of learning and developing away from individuals, which isn’t helpful to anyone.

Combating micromanagement

If you’re on the receiving end of micromanagement, from either your principal or superintendent, what can you do? The first step is to try and understand why it’s occurring. All supervisors are unique individuals, and some may not even be aware that they are using this management technique.

When you find yourself in this situation, schedule an appointment with your supervisor to discuss the effect that their micromanagement has on your approach and effectiveness. Spend some time thinking about and preparing for this meeting. After all, you are bringing up a subject that’s going to be awkward and perhaps not well received by your principal or superintendent. And do remember that they are your boss, which complicates the situation.

One other method of coping when having to report to a micromanaging supervisor is to avoid that person as much as possible. While there are times that you absolutely have to meet face to face concerning athletics, there are other issues on a principal’s plate. Every responsibility and issue that your supervisor has to deal with becomes your opportunity to work without suffocating oversight. Learning what your supervisor’s weekly schedule contains can be a major strategy to improve your working environment.

When you think about your options for navigating and surviving the frustration of being micromanaged, there’s another alternative to consider. Continue to do your best, fulfill your role and responsibilities based upon your experience and education, and ask forgiveness when your supervisor becomes upset that you haven’t received their approval. Chances are that most problems and the aggravating feelings end up passing in a few days. After all, something else will have surfaced by this point.

Don’t become a micromanager

Don’t forget, athletic directors also can be a perpetrator. You supervise a large staff of coaches, grounds crew and other personnel. This means that, either intentionally or unintentionally, you might be a micromanager. While it may be necessary to provide information and even some occasional reminders, you don’t want to check every detail of every responsibility.

There are three areas when you might have to intervene with your coaching staff:

  • Issues involving the health and safety of your athletes.
  • Compliance with the eligibility of your athletes.
  • Submission of entries to state tournaments.

Other than these items, mistakes can be overcome. And helping a coach after a miscue might even help that person avoid them in the future. You can’t, nor shouldn’t, micromanage everything for your coaches. It doesn’t allow them to grow or use their initiative (or creativity). Don’t become that stifling supervisor you swore you wouldn’t be. Give your staff the freedoms they deserve.

In the corporate world, lack of productivity is directly linked to micromanagement. Approximately three out of four working in business purport being affected by micromanagement, and it probably isn’t much different in the educational realm. Learning how to navigate around the frustrations and hurdles of a micromanaging supervisor is vital for your survival.

The greatest tool and ally that you have at your disposal are your fellow athletic directors. As with all of the challenges and problems you confront, no one in your school or district understands you or the situation better than your peers. Chances are great that many of them have or are currently going through the same experience. Reach out, talk to them and learn how they’ve handled similar situations in the past.

Micromanagement is aggravating and insulting. It stifles one’s initiative, creativity and, at times, the will to continue. That’s why reaching out to friends in the field, getting their advice or simply venting may be your best way to combat the dangers of micromanagement.


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