Deciding Power or Wealth

Joe Sherren
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Successful entrepreneurs bring an exciting sense of urgency, passion, drive and need for control to their businesses. Unfortunately, these same characteristics may also be the source of their downfall.

There are two major reasons why people want to become an entrepreneur and create a company.

One is to create wealth; the other is a strong need for control. To grow a company beyond the entrepreneurial phase, one cannot achieve both. To continually evolve any organization, the founder must let go of control and appropriately delegate the duties — especially as the founder's duties become more diverse.

I have seen this many times over when consulting for companies with a strong growth strategy. An example is Research in Motion (RIM) right now. The founders were not able to let go of key functions which stifled function heads and other subject matter experts.

As a business grows more successful, the more likely the founder will be ousted when control is their primary motivation. Think of what happened to Steve Jobs (Apple), Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Larry Page (Google), or David Neeleman (JetBlu). All ousted from the empire they created because of their need for control.

Entrepreneurs maintain control by:

1. Continually telling people what to do. Most people hate to be told what to do, yet many leaders have been conditioned to believe that is what they are supposed to do. Giving orders will not inspire others to work harder, or increase the quality of their work. This will cause people to do just enough to get by and stay out of trouble.

2. Showing favouritism. Entrepreneurs often hire friends, past co-workers and family members. That's not a problem — until they favour those people over other employees. There is a vast difference between having favourites and showing favouritism. Every employee expects to be treated fairly, and a leader must be very careful about showing partiality.

3. Hiring the wrong people. Entrepreneurs pride themselves on making gut-feel decisions which, more often than not, is expedient; however, when hiring talent, it is a recipe for disaster.

To be successful for the long-term, business owners must surround themselves with competent, committed talent. When companies use impartial testing and behavioural interviewing as a part of the hiring process, the overall productivity and culture improves.

However, when the entrepreneur hires talented people, they need to be given challenging jobs, trained appropriately, paid decent wages and then given responsibility to accomplish the job. Allow them control over their work. When founders make a bad hire, recognize it, and deal with it immediately before it infects other employees.

4. Failing to recognize accomplishments. The number one complaint I hear from scores of employees, is that they do not feel they are getting the respect or recognition they deserve. Effective leaders must look for things their people are doing right and praise them. Don't wait for the big victories. Develop a culture of regularly recognizing, celebrating, and rewarding, achievement. People want to feel good about coming to work every day.

5. Being inflexible. Entrepreneurs are often unwilling to delegate the duty or the decision because it won't get done "right." Translation: "Right" usually means "not my way." Or, often they will say "it is quicker to do it myself".

Not everyone thinks, acts, communicates, or works in the same way. People are different, and great leaders make special efforts to understand the differences in their people. They acknowledge those differences rather than have everything done "their (right) way."

My question to all you leaders — If you asked your people about these five controlling behaviours, what would they say about you? If your overarching need is for control, your company will never grow to its full potential. If you can let go and focus on creating wealth and growing the company, the opportunities are amazing.

Joseph Sherren, CSP, HoF, PEI's Management Effectiveness Expert, has spoken to over 4,000 audiences in over 25 countries worldwide. He is now touring the Mid-East. For further information contact us at or (902) 437-6998.


Organizations: Apple, Google

Geographic location: Mid-East

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