Thoughts on Micromanagers

In my 11 years as a pharmaceutical professional, I have been extremely lucky to have excellent managers.  When I was a territory representative, I had three managers (due to turnover) each of whom brought something different to the table but all gave me the perfect amount of space to grow within my own style.  As a Specialty Representative, I had one manager who basically let me do as I pleased because my results were amazing, I was proactive in my approach, and I had a high level of professionalism, leaving him to focus on selling direction as opposed to worrying about the little things like expense reports or time stamps.  As a Regional Sales Trainer I was introduced into a managerial position and worked very closely with my Regional Director who was able to see my work habits and abilities first-hand because we often were together in professional environments.  Lastly as a District Manager, my Regional Director could have been the most easy going boss that I have ever known.  That’s not to say he didn’t expect a lot…. his expectations for me were exactly what I delivered with professional approach to growing and managing my team.  I was lucky enough to never have micromanagers…rather I had those who managed me with the precise understanding of my ability accomplish tasks or my inability to accomplish a task.  Some of the traits that I admired about my managers along the way:

– If I didn’t know “how to” do something they first showed me how to do it and then let me run with it.
– They expected and urged me to utilize my own style when selling and did not expect me to be or sell like them.
– They were strong, clear, easy communicators who brought empathy, understanding, and self-awareness to the table.
– They called me out when I deserved to be called out on something I was falling short on but conversely praised me when I had achieved.

But this is just my own experience.  I have heard the horror stories of the negative traits:

– Expecting a rep to sell exactly like his/her manager
– Hovering over the reps every move creating an environment of distrust
– Checking in with the rep too much and not allowing the rep to grow creating fear and a lack of comfort
– Expecting the rep to do time consuming work during personal hours, hindering the work/life balance

With all of the above being said, I have read article after article stating that sometimes micromanaging is a good thing and necessary.  In the world of pharmaceuticals, we have to know so much information from product/competitor knowledge, local managed care markets, about 10 million acronyms, the organizational structures of hospital systems and how they interplay, the intricacies of the Affordable Care Act and how this impacts script writing, different doctor specialties and how they relate to your products, adverse events and side effect profiles, and so much more.  If a rep does not know at least the baseline knowledge on these items are we sending them to failure, or worse yet to be embarrassed and demoralized or demotivated?  Is it the manager’s job at that point to create a “close” management style that will ensure the rep is set up for success?

These questions from a general sense are why there has been so many discussions and articles written on the subject of micromanaging.  But perhaps the best managers are the ones that are able to strike to perfect balance where their direction is “how to” direction only when it is precisely needed and their delegation type direction is accurately given when the rep has the baseline skill set and only needs to be told what the task is and allowed to run with it.

Amongst managers, there is often discussions on the representative that simply is difficult just because that is his/her nature.  These are the hardest employees to manage.  If you create that close leadership style, they call you a micromanager, if you give them space, they speak about how you are a lazy manager who is not vested in their development.  With some, it is hard to win, and hence the interview process becomes ever so important to understand such personalities.  This is precisely why behavioral based questions are asked during the interview process, to gain an understanding of how behaviors led to results or lack thereof.

My personal thoughts are that there is no specific answer when it comes to people.  One must manage considering the personality of a representative, and their abilities to accomplish a task or not.  Also, a manager must understand the motivations of their representative and how he/she can best utilise those motivations in selling a representative on why the task is important and how accomplishing it may assist them in achieving based on their own motivations.  I was once told by someone much higher up on the organizational chart than I, that in every conversation someone is selling someone on something, especially when it comes to management.  As the manager you are trying to sell the representative on why the task is important and perhaps how to do it if they do not know how, and sometimes they are trying to sell you on why it may not be important in their eyes…..the eternal management struggle if you will!   Having worked for more than one pharmaceutical company in my time, I can tell my audience that there is no shortage of management models that are rolled out to managers to give them to tools to deal with all kinds of personalities and behavioral styles.  Much time is dedicated to giving the manager the skill sets to make impact with representatives.

My assumption is that with each new year there will be numerous articles written on the subject some in favor of micromanagers, some euphemizing the term “micromanaging”, and some totally against it.  The eternal discussion will persist because it is an important one.  Its importance derives from the need and drive to get the most out of people and how to best achieve results!!


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