When Micromanaging Is A Good Thing

One of those (crazy?) CEOs who personally answers every customer email reveals how he still manages to tackle everything else.

When Micromanaging Is A Good Thing
[Photo: Flickr user Casey Fleser]

“I am proud to be labeled a micromanager.”


It’s not really a statement you hear often from a leader or manager but it’s one Ted Karkus, CEO of ProPhase Labs, makers of Cold-EEZE Cold Remedy, is sticking to.

Ted Karkus

We’ve often heard managers arguing for more autonomy in the workplace, but Karkus would like to make his case in defense of micromanaging. He’d also like to state for the record that not all micromanaging is good micromanaging and that the latter starts with building a team that’s been put through a fine sieve.

“Where micromanaging gets the knock is it gives the impression that you have one person doing everything, which couldn’t possibly be effective or efficient–it makes it sound like you have no trust or faith in your employees,” Karkus says. “I consider myself a micromanager who has the opposite approach: I try to include in the company who can provide valuable input or expertise to do the task at hand. If I find myself not being able to hand off responsibilities, it would mean I hired the wrong people.”

Here’s how Karkus practices micromanaging in his business:

Get A Process In Place For Hiring

“At the outset you have to have a methodical process for hiring. What I learned is you don’t want to interview until the last step because you may hire that person because you like that person–that’s when mistakes occur. It’s critically important to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a candidate before you interview them. We start with a job description, which sounds like a pretty easy task to develop but the reality is when you have senior members put together a job description, invariably each person has different ideas of what they think are the most important aspects in terms of job responsibilities. You’re rarely going to find a candidate who can do everything well relative to the job responsibilities so you have to prioritize those responsibilities and then look for candidates whose strengths fit the most important ones.

“We have search firms who find candidates whose resumes fit with the job description. If they fit, we then have the candidates do a personality assessment, which basically outlines their strengths and weaknesses. If they fit, then as the final step we’ll interview the candidate, and if we like the candidate then we’ll hire them.”


Balance Being Informed And Being Involved

“This ties in very closely to the issue of micromanagement: If you hire the right people, then you will have trust in those people and you allow those people to get the job done. In that case you only need to be informed–you don’t need to be involved.

“I assess myself in terms of what my strengths and weakness are, too. There are other aspects of the business where I simply don’t have the expertise my team has. I’m going to defer to those employees and in those cases I remain informed to make sure the big picture strategy is managed properly, but I don’t get in their way. In other aspects of the company where I do have personal expertise and perspective I will be more involved. As an example, marketing. I’m the CEO but I took on the role of CMO.”

Realize That Even An Expert Doesn’t Know Everything

“Even though I would consider myself a micromanager when it comes to the marketing, I still have a team that I work closely with, and as far as I’m concerned every member provides valuable input. I recall I had one employee who was new to the company. She was about 22 years old and we were looking into whether a younger female target would be interesting for Cold-EEZE, so I was actually more interested in her opinion than a bunch of 40-, 50-, 60-year old men sitting around a boardroom. She was intrinsically involved in developing some of the marketing concepts.

“I look for where people can provide input that’s valuable to the company. I’m very much a team player and I treat people like it’s a level playing field. That’s really important to me. As far as I’m concerned, we all work together. I don’t even like to say people work for me or report to me–my attitude is we all work together. Frankly, I would never invest in a business where the CEO wasn’t a micromanager, but again it’s about micromanaging from the point of understanding the balance between informed and involved.”

Control Customer Feedback To Your Advantage

“The same way I have a team approach to managing the company where I say there’s no such thing about a bad idea and I really care about what other employees have to say, the same is true when it comes to our consumer products. At the end of the day, many managers make the mistake of thinking they know best when the reality is a manager’s opinion about how to present a product to a consumer has very little value. What has great value is the consumer’s opinion.

“We sell five or six million packages of Cold-EEZE per year and in every single package there’s an insert card with a message from me wishing the consumer gets well sooner and an email address to reach out to me. I personally read and respond to every single email. It doesn’t take many consumers to complain about a particular issue with our product before I know there’s an issue. I learn a lot from the consumer–it helps me strategically in figuring out how to improve upon our products and how to introduce the best new products.”


About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.