Most of us know Jack Welch at the former chairman and CEO of General Electric who saw the corporation’s value rise 4,000% during his tenure. He’s now known as a best-selling business author and the Executive Chairman of the Jack Welch Management Institute. What you may not know is that Mr. Welch is a staunch supporter of selective micromanagement—or as he calls it, “Accordion Management.”
What the heck is “accordion management”? In a recent article (which you can read in its entirety here) he described it this way:
As a manager, you have to take what I call the “accordion approach.” Get very close to your people and their work when they need you – that is, when your help matters – and pull back when you’re extraneous. Your help matters when you bring unique expertise to a situation, or you can expedite things by dint of your authority, or both. Your help matters when you have highly relevant experience that no one else on the team brings, and your presence sets an example of best practices – and prevents costly mistakes. Your help matters when you have a long relationship with, say, a customer or a potential partner, and your being at the table changes the game. In such situations, you have to micromanage. It’s your responsibility. Just as it’s every employee’s responsibility to help the organization win.
It’s well worth it to read the whole article, but here’s the big take-away for me. Leadership and management aren’t template driven. As a leader you need to be flexible and know when being involved is a benefit—and when it actually detracts. There’s a huge difference between micro managing (trying to control every little detail of your company) and being willing to jump in when you (and perhaps only you) can make a big, positive difference.
Of course in order to exercise “accordion management” you’ve got to have the kind of relationship with your leadership team that enables them to tell you when you’re crossing the line. And you also need the kind of clear vision and honesty to be confident that you’re really getting involved for the greater good—and not to bolster your ego. What we’re really talking about here is not micro-management, but engaged leadership.
That’s a tune everyone can dance to!