Excerpted from Fail-Proof Your Business
By Dr. Fail-Proof (aka Dr. Paul E. Adams)
Dr. Fail-Proof's Rx: for Entrepreneurs: Micro-Managing will Strangle Your Business

“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 reign on everything. That is, no one but you, decides anything.

This inefficient management style is known as “micro-managing,” 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 titian who only permits a single pen in the office that all the staff must share? Ridiculous I know, but what a vivid example of micro-managing.

By the way, The term “micro-managing” 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 micro-managing, you have a problem; if you believe you must check on every detail, your style is symptomatic of insecurity or paranoia. Your style 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.

Micro-managing 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 using decisions or duties that are not critical to the success of your business and turn these tasks over to your employees. 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. Now I must bring this column to closure.

Copyright 1999-2002 Paul E Adams

Dr. Paul E. Adams is an internationally syndicated columnist, entrepreneur, Professor Emeritus Ramapo College of New Jersey and the author of Fail Proof Your Business: Beat the Odds and be Successful.