Darren Dahl on “10 Things You Should Never Micromanage”

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Darren Dahl and featured by Inc. magazine. To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain subscription information, please click here.

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Hey, go-getter. Yes, you could do it all, but there are times it’s best to step back and stop stifling your team’s productivity and creativity.

By their very nature, entrepreneurs are doers. While other people may scheme or dream up ideas, entrepreneurs prefer to take action. That’s how companies are born. The rub, however, is that the drive to do things can often become a hindrance for an entrepreneur over time. “As companies grow, many entrepreneurs have trouble moving from the doing phase to the leading phase,” says Stephen Harvill, founder of Creative Ventures, a consulting company in Dallas, Texas. “It’s understandable since many times the small business person did just about everything to get the business started. But, as the business grows, they don’t shift their mindset from doing to leading.” In other words, many entrepreneurs get stuck micromanaging tasks that should be delegated to others inside or even outside the company.

A case in point is Mike Faith, CEO of Headsets.com, an online retailer based in San Francisco, who says that giving up doing things can be like breaking a bad habit. “Many entrepreneurs have an addiction to making sure things get done ‘just right’” and there’s no reason to give that up, says Faith. “That’s often how they became successful, by having higher standards to get things right than others around them, sometimes even obsessive standards. I’m one of those people.”

The truth is, however, the more a CEO micromanages his staff and subordinates, the less productive everyone becomes – which can lead to a death spiral for a nascent enterprise. The answer, then, is to hire the kinds of people you can trust to get the job done all on their own. “Employees need to be given responsibility and continually challenged to grow so that their jobs do not become routine and so that they personally feel invested in their role and the organization as a whole,” says Ryan Peterson, founder and CEO of OCZ Technology in San Jose, California. “It is important to start delegating tasks immediately and just as critical to make sure that the right tasks are begin delegated.”

In that spirit, Inc. asked dozens of entrepreneurs and small business experts to list what they thought were the top 10 items that, despite every temptation to do so, they should not micromanage. Here’s how they responded, in no particular order:

[Here are five of the ten that should not be micromanaged.]

1. Accounting

There’s no doubt that understanding the numbers behind your business is critical to the success of your business. But you should still steer clear of tackling the day-to-day tasks in assembling them. “Outsourcing payroll is cheap and easy, even large corporations do it,” says Cliff Holekamp, a professor at Washington University’s Olin School of Business in St. Louis. “Don’t bother with this time consuming task.” A lot of entrepreneurs also spend time handling their own bookkeeping and paying bills when they should be hiring a bookkeeper, activating online bill pay options, or trusting an internal resource to handle it for them, says Scott Gerber, managing partner of Gerber Enterprises, a brand development company in New York City. “This is a time-sucking activity, and while it’s important for the IRS to get the right information come tax time, there are more than enough resources, either internal or external, that can be trained or hired to handle such an activity,” he says.

2. Human Resources

Every CEO owes the success of the business to their people. But, digging into the details of the health care package or employment law is better left to a specialist. Just as importantly, CEOs should stay out of the hiring process until they are truly needed. “Many times business owners want to focus on building a team of people they feel they can trust and depend on,” says Adrienne Graham, who heads up two companies in Atlanta, Empower Me! Corporation and Hues Consulting & Management. “But they often let their own personalities, preferences and idiosyncrasies get in the way of making sound hiring decisions.” Similarly, CEOs should delegate tasks associated with on-boarding and training new employees, says Joe Crisara, founder of Contractorselling.com. “Assigning a mentor to a new employee is a double win” he says. First it increases the esteem and value of the employee mentor. Also, it allows the new employee to see how things are really done instead of they way the boss thinks it is being done.”

3. Social Media

There is a temptation among many entrepreneurs like Samantha Salven-Bick, the founder of Los Angeles-based Samantha Slaven Publicity, to micromanage every outward bound email or piece of correspondence – including Facebook updates. “Trying to oversee every word that leaves the office is time consuming, frustrating and perhaps a bit control-freaky,” she says, adding that she edits all email sent by her junior staffers. That’s a mistake, says Ellen Thompson, CEO of 4 Walls, which manages several online property websites out of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, especially when it comes to social media applications. “Most entrepreneurs would be better off leaving social media management to younger employees that ‘get it,’” says Thompson. “Social media is by its very nature very informal and it requires a large volume of ongoing work. Micromanaging the messages will make social media campaigns sound inauthentic. In our experience, you can’t censure every post without seeing your social media campaign ground to a halt.”

4. Busy Work

When they start out, most entrepreneurs pride themselves on their ability to do anything to save money – including sweeping the floors and cleaning the bathroom when needed. But, as the company grows, they need to hire an operations staff or office manager capable of staying on top everything from ordering office supplies to answering the phone and filing expense reports, says Dianna Durkin, an entrepreneur and author of The Loyalty Advantage. Orit Pennington, CEO of TPGTEX Label Solutions in Houston, says she not only delegates the answering of her cell phone, she also asks a staff member to read and sort the company’s mail, bringing her only the most critical pieces with the relevant information already highlighted.

5. IT Issues

Knowing everything about your business may be a source of pride for entrepreneurs, but when it comes to fixing a bug or downloading a virus patch, call for help. “When there’s a computer issue, I don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call my IT guru, who has been working with computers for most of his adult life,” says says Laura Stack, a productivity consultant and author of SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best. “I’m sure you could probably learn to troubleshoot errors, write HTML, create WordPress sites, and more, but it’s not worth your time and frustration to figure it out.”

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To read the complete article, check out other resources, and/or subscribe to the magazine, please click here.

To check out Darren Dahl’s otger blog posts, please click here.


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