Why you should be micro-managing

Grace loves her beef bones and rawhide sticks, two of her favorite treats. It’s been more a challenge to learn what foods for her main diet are healthy and that she can tolerate.

I really don’t enjoy digging into the minute details of a situation, especially when the data is mundane, technical, or complex.

So you might be surprised when I tell you that I’ve been absorbed in analyzing the long list of ingredients found on dozens of dog food bags. (It certainly surprised me.) I mean, half the words you can’t even pronounce and haven’t a clue what they really are. Like pyridoxine hydrochloride which is apparently vitamin B6. And I learned that corn gluten meal is not something you want in your dog food.

My real preference would be for someone to tell me what dog food would be the best for Grace. I’d much rather spend my time walking it the woods with her as opposed to trying to figure out the gory details of how her digestive system is reacting to levels of protein, grains, and fat.

Yet I willingly spent most of Sunday reading a book that had more information than I ever thought I’d want to know about dog nutrition, including the ins and outs of commercial dog food manufacturing processes, the benefits of homemade diets, and raw and cooked foods—and lots more.

This came about because we’re having trouble transitioning Grace’s food. You may recall a previous post where I talked about taking Grace to a chiropractor. One of the recommendations was to change Grace’s food as the one I had been feeding her had lots of fillers and not as much nutritional value as it could. She gave me a few resources to educate myself on the health impact of the foods she eats.

That was a few months ago, and at the time I scanned the website enough to see there was a wealth of data. I didn’t really take the time to examine all the information. Instead, I found an excellent local source for quality dog food and began exploring a few options with this retailer. The woman at the store was so knowledgeable and exceptionally helpful and I was grateful for her involvement.

After the last appointment with Donna, she felt it was time to switch her food. So over the past month, we’ve unsuccessfully tried two types of high-quality food and Grace’s digestive system has not been happy. I’ll spare you what that looked like, but suffice to say that it was obvious the foods were not reacting well with her body.

We went back to her old food to give her system a break before trying a new one and that night she had a mild seizure. So now, my curiosity and interest had reached a peak. This month-long effort of finding a healthier food was creating havoc for her and I didn’t know why.

What is it about these new foods that aren’t working? Is it a particular ingredient? Or a combination of ingredients? Was there any correlation between going back to the old food and her seizure? All these questions were swirling in my head and the best way for me to answer them was to learn more. It might be easier to hand over this problem to a vet, but I know Grace best and armed with knowledge, I might have a better chance of solving this.

It became clear to me that I would have to understand more about the dog foods and more about a dog’s system in order to figure it out. And since this type of research isn’t something I gravitate to, it took all these events to move me forward. After what I’ve been learning, it certainly makes me wonder what her health would be like if I had known all this a long time ago.

I’m reminded of what I’ve read about Steve Job’s approach to product innovation. Clearly he had a visionary mind and an artistic view of how Apple products should look and function. But he didn’t stay at the big picture level, though, to ensure his vision was implemented. It’s been documented that programmers would walk away from a conversation with him, shocked at how much he understood about their work. Because of this, he was able to know if he could push for something that others said was impossible.

Some managers look at digging into the details as micro-managing. But if you don’t understand the information, you miss out knowing what to manage. I have frequently seen when managers make assumptions about a situation without having all the data. That leads to problematic decisions.

This is true for leadership at all levels. In fact, the higher in the organization, the more this is a problem. It starts with a Board of Directors, who are often talented and respected contributors, but may not have direct knowledge of the industry for the organization they serve. They operate on trust of the leadership, without gaining enough direct exposure to the issues to make informed decisions.

As you move to the organization’s leadership, including the CEO/owner and the executive leadership team, they often skim over details, many of which hold the secrets to best outcomes.

Yes, there is a point when employees can manage details without your oversight. When you cross that line, micro-managing becomes a bad thing. I’m talking about understanding the situation to the point where you aren’t operating blindly.

Get involved. Learn more. You will make better decisions.

You never know what you’ll find out. And you might be surprised at how enjoyable the journey is. I’m looking forward to getting back to my exploration about dog food.

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12 comments

  1. “Get involved. Learn more. You will make better decisions.”

    Sometimes the truisms are that simple, yet still profound. Your post reminded me of a recent customer situation in which those who were “actually doing the work” (their phrase, not mine) admitted to having almost no respect for those above them because there had been no effort to really understand what went on, what it took to accomplish the critically important day-to-day tasks that keep a team, department or company running. So the understanding you recommend isn’t just a good thing to do–it’s a necessary thing to do.

    BTW: Sorry about Grace’s indigestion! I’ve been much more fortunate; our dogs can eat anything… dog food, bird seed, bark, small rocks, chipmunks….

    • What a great example of hearing the perspective of those who are not understood or appreciated. And I value your comment that this is a necessary, not just a preferable, way to lead. Thanks, Michael! (I bet Grace would LOVE a chipmunk! That’s one food item I hadn’t considered.)

  2. So sorry to hear about Grace’s digestive issues. Is it possible she has a food allergy? My dogs are on a limited ingredient dog food because we suspected a food allergy in Webster years ago. Turns out, he doesn’t have food allergies, but they LOVE the food so I’ve kept them on it. Love the tie to micro-managing. We always tell hiring managers to hire the best and then get out of their way, but that assumes you actually understand what you’ve hired the person to do! Add a few more layers of management and it can get really ugly. I’ve spent most of my career working in decentralized organizations, where the people at “headquarters” make decisions about the policies and practices in the business units (i.e., profit centers!) without ever having worked in one, or (gasp!) ever visiting one. It was very frustrating for employees working in the trenches to have the higher-ups at corporate roll out policies that were counter-productive and/or made it difficult for them to do their jobs. Sadly, this happens every day in Corporate America! Great post, Robin!

    • Hi Laurie. It’s very possible that she has a food allergy especially since I’ve had her on the same food for several years. I’m learning that’s not a good idea as it can create allergies. It’s definitely an interesting puzzle to work through and figure out. There is certainly merit in the advice of hire the right person and then let them do their job, and as you said, the critical piece is that the managers understand the role. I think it’s far too often that managers use “micro-managing” as a scapegoat for not doing their own job thoroughly enough. As always, great to have your experience here!

  3. LeeAnn says:

    Very interesting post, Robin! My particular practice of law requires an incredible attention to detail and I think that also leads me to micro-manage those that work with me – to make certain that they are paying the same sort of attention to the work. Sometimes I worry that it is the wrong way to manage people – so glad to hear that you think it is necessary! I too have been through the dog food study and ended up with a limited ingredient, human grade food for my Gracie. Although it costs a fortune, she likes it and does well with it. I have seen many articles and breeders that advocate actual human food. I have a hard enough time cooking for my husband and myself, so haven’t gone there yet!

    • Hi LeeAnn. I have thought a lot about your comment — there is a delicate line for when a manager does micro-manage to the detriment of the relationship. One of the reasons I chose my headline is because I think managers use the excuse for not wanting to micro-manage as an excuse for not doing what they should be doing, and I think you clearly are very diligent in that regard. With the attention to detail being critical to the quality of the work, it’s appropriate that you put the focus on it so it’s clear that it’s a priority. What would be interesting is to know whether those you work with feel you micro-manage. Even if they think you do, it’s very likely that you’re doing the right thing. The most important thing is to get on the same page. Having a conversation (and ultimately a mutually understood agreement) about the level of involvement on your process is what will make things run well. Sounds like Gracie and you are on the same page with the food! Even for people who can’t budget for the high cost foods, the homemade foods would probably be less expensive than even cheap dog food. I can relate on the time — and cooking isn’t one of things I enjoy as much, either. I know from the awesome recipes you posted, you’re a good cook, too!

  4. didiwright says:

    Great post, Robin…Your dibbing and dabbing into dog nutrition sounds so familiar! I was in exactly the same place a few years back, when our then-puppy George didn’t seem to like any food. It took a lot of research and many trials of different foods (some with the effects you’re describing for Grace) until we found that BARF is what suited him and what he liked best. We haven’t looked back ever since, although I’m constantly on the lookout for good-quality complete foods for those few camping trips we take every year. Our favourite complete food comes under the label “Nature Diet”, I think I’ve written a review post about this some time ago. If you could get hold of it there in the US, it might be worth trying it. They even do a non/low-allergen version for dogs with sensitive digestion, so maybe it would suit Grace? Knowing how much you love your girl and how resilient you are, I’m sure you won’t stop until you’ve found the perfect solution…And it sounds like Donna is a valuable partner in your quest…Good luck 🙂

    P.S. I love that photo of Grace and the English-looking, bright green grass 😉

    • Didi, it’s funny because I have been thinking of you in my research process and was planning to search your blog for the raw diet information. It is definitely one of the highly recommended things to explore. I’ll definitely look forward to reading your information. Yes, that bright green grass was a few months ago, no snow yet, but definitely brown grass adorns our lawn now! Hope all is well with your busy life.

  5. Well, it serves me right for falling behind reading your blog. I just passed on the Liebster Award to you and see you’ve (not surprisingly) already been awarded it and put your own spin on it, well done:)

    Dog food can be a minefield. You need to be a chemist to understand the ingredients in most of them, which is quite scary. I’m lucky in that Frankie and Beryl don’t seem to be allergic to anything, but they are fussy and it is difficult to find something they both like that doesn’t cost the earth and they do well on. I hope you soon find something that suits both Grace and you.

    Being a fairly recent convert to an iMac I have a lot of admiration for Steve Job’s vision and ability to produce such innovative products as the Apple range contains. I hadn’t thought of that in the context of micro-managing, actually I can’t say I’ve ever thought of micro-managing full stop! But I’m going to start thinking about it now and seeing if I do any in my life:) Yet another thought provoking post, thanks Robin.

    • Hi Sue. How wonderful of you to share the Liebster award with me. Thank you! Minefield is an excellent description for the topic of dog food. Yes, I think Steve Jobs irritated some people with how involved he got, but look at the results. There is a balance between too much and too little involvement!

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