Published April 15, 2002

Micromanaging: Inefficient Business Management Style

"Get the barriers out of the way to let people do the things they do well." Robert Noyce, Founder, Intel.

Last week I wrote about scaring your employees into submission. This week, I have a few words about squashing them into non-thinking androids. A style of leadership that is cousin to the technique of fear; a management approach that keeps a tight rein on everything. That is, no one but you decides anything.

This inefficient management style is known as "micromanaging," a petty approach to managing every detail of your business - even to the preposterous notion of an inventory control for your paper clips. Have you seen the recent television advertisement by a leading office supply firm, depicting a would-be titan who permits only a single pen in the office that all the staff must share? Ridiculous, I know, but what a vivid example of micromanaging.

By the way, the term "micromanaging" worked its way into the language of business much the way the rest of those impressive and important sounding words and phrases such as "outsourcing," or "alliances" have become the vocabulary of the corporate elite. I love the latest bit of jargon: "closure." Is this an improvement over "completion?"

Back to our subject at hand - if you do insist on micromanaging, you have a problem. If you believe you must check on every detail, your style is symptomatic of insecurity or paranoia. It is based on a lack of faith and trust in other people. And it is repressive. It leads to little growth, it discourages any human resource development, it focuses on problems of detail, and discourages teamwork. Eventually it may bring about the failure of your business.

If you don't trust your employees or their judgment, and you are unwilling to allow them to assume any responsibility, you are cheating yourself of the talent you are paying for. As much as you may want to, you can't build a one-person organization that will succeed in the long run. Micromanaging may work for a while, but in time it acts as a brake on all progress. New ideas, new products, new markets are discouraged as the talent to create and move forward has been imprisoned in the mind of one person - you! It is your inability to "pass the torch," thinking only you can win the race to success, that will sabotage your drive for the "brass ring."

How do you break out of the habit of playing everything close to the vest? To begin with, let's assume you have the right employees in your business and that they will welcome the opportunity to have a say in how they do their jobs. If not, your first step will be some firing and hiring. But don't repeat your mistakes; look for employees with ambition - not satisfaction with security. You need workers that can help you succeed, individuals that want to grow and insist you let them.

Next, build your comfort level of delegation by first turning over to your employees decisions or duties that are not critical to the success of your business. In other words, metaphorically speaking, delegate the job of buying paper clips. Try not to second guess the outcome, try not to feel indispensable and try to realize that some of your employees are as smart as you are. If you make a sincere effort to shed some of your responsibilities, in a short while your stress levels will drop, you will start smiling again and maybe you will even sneak 18 holes on a Wednesday afternoon once a month.

Remember, as the owner you will always have the final say if you want it, but smart employees can give you some smart input - and allow you time to enjoy being an entrepreneur. Take advantage of it.

Article - Copyright 2002 Dr. Paul E. Adams. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.