A lot of business owners are control freaks. That’s a fact.
It’s understandable. This isn’t just a job — it’s your business. It’s your baby, your little alter-ego, your precious… Wait, that’s getting kind of creepy. Let’s just say it’s important to you and you don’t want incompetent people messing it up!
My small business — for better or for worse — is an extension of me. So if everything is going well, that reflects back on me. And if it goes poorly…well, you understand why the stakes are higher for the small business owner.
But that’s not all. Small business owners do not have the resources of a large corporation. You all know what I’m talking about: no HR department, no IT department, no marketing department, no controller’s office. We’re lucky if we have an office manager! With none of these specialists on our payroll, the amount of information the small business owner needs to know — and stay on top of — is simply too much for one person. We may have a small staff, sure; but in terms of leadership, we are it. It’s an impossible standard.
No wonder we become control freaks. We pass on that impossible standard to our staff; we micro-manage or mismanage; we may be nice, or have fits of rage; but the outcome is the same. We work like animals on the edge of some sort of freak out. Only special people can tolerate us. That’s why we’re called control freaks.
Hey, we’re just doing what we have to do, right? It’s like we don’t have a choice! We wouldn’t do it this way if we didn’t have to!
But what if you don’t have to? What if you do have a choice? What if that choice is between running a small, struggling business that you work really hard to make perfect; and leading a vibrant, growing business, with lots of messy folks working alongside of you?
I hate to break it to you. You do have a choice. And the choice you make is revealed in your behavior. Over the next few blog posts I’m going to delve into the psyche of the small business owner control freak. I want to help you develop an awareness of your controlling behavior — the costs and benefits of it. I want to help you decide which of the scenarios above you’d like to see played out in your small business; and then I want to help you get there.
But first things first. If you’re feeling queasy about now, you’re in the right place. Stay with me. Take a deep breath. I put together a control freak test for you. Read through the statements below and see if you relate to any of them.
Control Freak Test
You might be a control freak if…
- …you think: “I would delegate that task, but I can do it better than anyone else; besides, it would take too long to explain to them exactly how to do it.”
- …you believe your primary role is to find and correct all the mistakes everyone on your team makes.
- …you interrupt when someone is struggling to express themselves or articulate an idea and explain it for them.
- …you find yourself thinking, (probably several times a day) “Things would be so much better if they just did it the way I told them to.”
- …you act disappointed when someone makes a mistake, but you secretly relish the opportunity to correct them.
- …you regularly express anger toward inanimate objects (your computer, cell phone, car, etc.) because they don’t work the way you think they should.
- …you are annoyed at 9:03 because you think that your 9 AM appointment is late.
- …you are feeling irritated right now because you are thinking “What’s wrong with expecting people to be prompt?” (Control freak. For sure.)
- …you find that most people who disagree with you turn out to be stupid.
- …you get offended when someone you barely know doesn’t take your advice.
- …you are wondering if that time you stopped to correct the spelling on a sign that was being held by a homeless guy counts (“Just trying to help!”). It does. That was you being a control freak.
- …you believe that questioning your authority should be a capital offense.
- …you look for “socially acceptable” ways to get out of listening to your assistant’s story about her daughter’s birthday party so you — and everyone else — can get back to work. You’re being a rude control freak.
- …you can always identify one or two “things” that each person around you could change to make you much happier.
- …you “help them out” by explaining these “things”… frequently… and repeatedly. Oh dear. You are such a control freak.
- …you position other people’s suggestions in the worst possible light, making every negative assumption, and predicting certain catastrophe as the only possible outcome.
- …you can’t understand why people don’t just do things your way (because it really is so much better).
- …you find yourself trying to explain, clarify, or dismiss the behavior of one person to another person. (You may also be co-dependent).
- …you believe that people complaining about your behavior demonstrates their incompetence. (Yup. Control freak.)
- …seeing an important file in the wrong place makes you want to inventory every file in the office to insure that there are no others out of place.
- …you judge every action taken by others as either right, or wrong. If this wall of judgement seems like common sense to you, there is most certainly a thriving colony of control freak thought and behavior hiding behind it!
OK. So you might be a control freak, or maybe you have a few tendencies in that direction. So what should we do about that?
I know what you’re thinking “Nothing!” You think if you admit to being a control freak, you will have to stop being one; and if you stop being one, your employees will stage a coup and you’ll be out of business inside of three months.
If you saw yourself in any of the statements above, I know you have a lot to think about. Now control freaks aren’t created over night, and they aren’t transformed over night either. It’s complicated. If you are interested in change it is going to be a process that you will have to commit to. Are you ready for change?
How’d you score on the control freak test? How many of these apply to you? How does it feel to look at these behaviors?
Photo credit: celine nadeau