How "Episodic Micromanagement" Can Actually Make You a Better Leader

June 17, 2019

See why David Stern is such a fan of episodic micromanagement and how it can help you become a better leader.

Micromanagement is a bad thing, right? It should be avoided at all costs, right?

That’s the conventional thinking. But David Stern – the incredibly successful former NBA commissioner who took the league from an afterthought to a multibillion-dollar global brand – disagrees (somewhat).

In a course on LinkedIn Learning on motivation, Stern makes an argument for leaders to practice “episodic micromanagement.”

“If I were going to write a book, which I'm not, the title would be Episodic Micromanagement is Underrated, because it's a kind of test boring which says, 'let's see how we're doing here' and you know invariably you're going to find ways to improve,” Stern said in the course.

In the LinkedIn Learning course “Be a Better Manager by Motivating Your Team”, former NBA Commissioner David Stern explains why he believes in “episodic micromanagement.”

What “Episodic Micromanagement” Is And Why It Can Be a Good Thing

So, what is “episodic micromanagement”? Stern refers to it as “managing by walking around.” It means diving into all aspects of the business – and he means all – to really understand what’s going on there and to see if it can be done better.

He doesn’t recommend doing this all the time. But dropping in every-so-often and really digging in has two main benefits, according to Stern:

  • The small stuff really matters – and people need to know it matters.

For any organization to build a truly great brand, Stern believes all parts of it need to be world class. That means everything from the product itself to the packaging to the experience of buying the product to the help desk to the UX of the website.

“I think that everyone in every organization has to sweat the small stuff,” Stern said.

Episodic micromanagement brings that point home because, by you the leader involving yourself in every aspect of the business, you make the point that all aspects matter.

  • It motivates employees, as it adds purpose to each job.

Now, here’s where you are probably raising an eyebrow. How can episodic micromanagement possibly engage employees?

Well, Stern’s point is this – people want purpose in their jobs. By the leader involving themselves in even the most mundane parts of the organization, they make the point that each and every department matters.

“It's very important to let people know in your organization that you appreciate what they are doing to achieve the overall goals of the organization,” Stern said. “Letting the people who are working on it know that you care enough to be involved I think can be a motivational tool.”

The takeaway – of course, you don’t want to micromanage every part of the business all the time. That isn’t even possible and, even if it was, you’d destroy innovation and hurt morale.

But, knowing all aspects of the organization is critical as a leader. And dropping in occasionally not only helps you better understand that part of the organization and potentially improves it – it also signals to the people who work in each department that their work is important.

Want to learn more? Watch the full course on LinkedIn Learning, Be a Better Manager by Motivating Your Team.

Videos within the course cover: