Monday, November 3, 2008

The Dangers of Entrepreneurial Micromanagement

In today’s Wall Street Journal, there is an article on how the control habits of micromanagers actually hurt the companies that they lead:

Two years ago, Greg Cushard was leading eight or nine meetings a week at
Rubicon Oil Co., the truck-refueling company he founded and runs. He would
interrupt conversations among subordinates, identify mistakes and make even
mundane decisions, he says.

"I acted like a quarterback ... more than a coach," Mr. Cushard says. He had little time to think about the business. Employees "stopped making suggestions because they were afraid they'd get shot down."

Prompted by advice from his top lieutenants and executive coach, Mr. Cushard resolved to stop micromanaging. Leadership experts say micromanagers --
from small-business owners to managers in large organizations -- share an
unwillingness to trust subordinates; still, many can be successful, to a
point.


The great danger of micromanagement is that it saps the initiative of the micromanaged. Individuals are unwilling to make decisions apart from management directives.

The issue that struck me is how often this occurs in entrepreneurial upstarts. I think by nature most entrepreneurs are control freeks. One of the benefits of entreprenuership is that the entreprenuer moves from a time-based system to a results-based environment. An entrepreneur’s day-to-day activities are intimately related to results. For instance, if you don’t spend time selling your service or product, the business will fail so you are less likely to spend time on activities that aren’t directly related to selling the service or product. This results-oriented mindset predisposes the entrepreneur to micromanagement tendenices…especially if the venture is a small start-up.

When you’ve built a business from day one, it’s hard to resist the urge to dabble in all aspects of the business. Since entrepreneurs are pre-disposed to micro-management, they need to be intentional about creating environments to prevent it. As soon as possible in the start-up process, the entrepreneur has to move in his or her mind from the role of individually building a business to developing a team to build a business. Employees need to be empowered to set goals and work independently within the larger framework of the mission of the venture.

For faith ventures, this is an important lesson to remember. By nature, faith ventures tend to be even more dependent on the leadership and vision of the founder. The great challenge is empowering an organazation to accomplish the mission without holding it back because of micro-management by the leader. All levels of a faith-venture need to see themselves as serving God and a mission larger than anyone of the goals of each individual. A true faith-venture is run by God with every other employee as an important member of the team.

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