The air imploded with tension. He stared at me for a solid minute. I had just told this brilliant business genius that he was the biggest problem in his company. That was not an easy thing to do because he was the one who had retained me to help him improve staff morale.
"What do you mean, I'm the problem?" he growled.
"Eric, your employees are frightened of you."
"Fear is good. It keeps them on their toes."
"Fear motivation does work, Eric. But, not very well. It doesn't last long, and you have to continually threaten and scare people into doing their jobs."
"I don't do that!" Eric shouted.
"Not deliberately, but there are some things you do that cause fear."
"Oh yeah! Like what?"
"Chris, my business is not big enough to absorb costly mistakes. I have to make sure that everything is okay."
"Eric, micro-managing limits your growth and makes your job boring. It also teaches people not to think."
What I love most about the entrepreneurial spirit is the creative ability to problem-solve. Eric had that true entrepreneurial spirit. He immediately shifted his ego aside.
"Okay, what needs to be done and what do I have to do?"
"Great! First we must get a very clear vision of where you want to be with this business in the next ten years."
"I know where I want to be!"
"Have you written it down?"
"That's the starting point for you, Eric. When you commit yourself in writing to a long-term vision, you will realize you need a team to help you get there."
"You're right! But when it gets down to the daily cash flow and what needs to be done everyday, I lose sight of that and get side-tracked."
"Eric, we are all busier than ever, but we have to remain focused. So, let's begin by clearly defining your vision, your values, and your goals."
"Once you have completed that, the next step will be to share it with your people."
Transcending Levels of Growth
Many business owners find themselves in Eric's exact situation. In the early days of a new business, the growth is phenomenal, the excitement and energy are almost beyond containment, and people love to support an organization that exudes enthusiasm and creativity.
Business growth, like human growth, has to be focused: It has to be directed toward an ultimate outcome. The ultimate outcome for a person is adulthood. A person reaches true adulthood by transcending various levels of growth . . . infancy, childhood, adolescence, and finally adulthood. The ultimate outcomes for a business are the realization of its vision, ongoing growth, and profitability. Businesses, like people, need to transcend their unique levels of growth. If these levels are not successfully managed, stunted growth will result in failure.
The entrepreneurial spirit is amazing and charismatic, almost evangelical. However, there is a point in the growth of a business when the smart entrepreneur will alter or maybe even radically reinvent his or her style knowing that the source of power will be to empower others in the company to carry forward the vision. This can be a very difficult thing because business birth is a wonderfully gratifying experience. Psychologically, it's your child and it is very exciting to raise it. The ego is validated in so many ways. Power and control can be very intoxicating. It's good to be king!
I've witnessed so many business owners who hold on too tight, refusing to let go of their "child" only to see it wither and die, eventually ending up in bankruptcy or being forced to sell out.
A king doesn't have to wear a crown . . . to be a king.
Micro-managing is one of the ways that owners try to keep control during periods of high growth. When that fails, they introduce too many control systems, and hierarchy becomes the order of the day. The business changes from being results-driven to systems-controlled. This, in turn, spawns deadly viruses in the culture of the organization. These viruses; fear, insecurity, dishonesty, and apathy, spread quickly throughout the business. They eventually kill the life sources of the business: the innovation, the initiative, and all the positive, willing attitudes. People lose interest because they are excluded and treated as numbers.
Granted, in a smaller business, high control is very effective because communication and interaction are constant and are the foundation for emotional security. But as the business grows and systems replace interaction, the natural, willing organizational ability is watered down, taking with it the excitement of being involved in the big picture. Duties and jobs become have-to's instead of want-to's. Have-to's are stress creators and want-to's are stress relievers.
Business owners need to shift from high-control management thinking to effective leadership through empowerment. Leadership suggests that an investment made in people is an extremely valuable strategy and an asset to organizational effectiveness. The human capital of a business can be described as unified creativity, responsibility, energy and collective spiritual agreements. The greatest source of power a business leader has is the committed hearts and minds of everyone. Knowing how to direct this power creates unstoppable, unflappable, and unshakable zones of inspiration. This, in turn, results in secure, highly profitable work environments.
Most of what we call management consists of
making it difficult for people to get their work done.
- Peter F. Drucker