It’s time to rethink delegation.
Too often this means distributing routine tasks so we can focus on bigger projects. But that’s not delegating — that’s unloading busywork. Delegation should be strategic. If you’re not taking advantage of employees’ skills, perspectives, and interests, you’re missing opportunities to build your team and your business.
A 2013 survey reported 53% of business owners believe delegating would grow their business over 20% — yet less than 15% say they already assign everything they should. We know delegating helps our bottom line, but we’re stuck on how to do it well.
According to the book Lincoln on Leadership, Abraham Lincoln’s delegation strategy included three main concepts: persuade, support, encourage. Although much has changed since the 1860s (indoor plumbing for one!), his effective techniques serve as the following timeless lessons for us all.
1. Persuade Through Shared Vision.
William Seward, Secretary of State, believed Lincoln was “totally unqualified and incompetent.” Undeterred, Lincoln earned Seward’s respect. They visited troops, discussed strategies, and shared patriotic vision. Lincoln convinced Seward they shared values, and then fully tasked international diplomacy to demonstrate trust in Seward.
What are the defining characteristics of a successful entrepreneur? Passion, tenacity, and flexibility all make the list, for sure, but how about being a bit of a control freak? That probably figures somewhere in there too. And undoubtedly, the determination to constantly succeed can make it difficult for entrepreneurs to let go of the reins, even a little.
However, learning to loosen your grip marks a coming of age for any business owner; it’s an essential part of growing a business. It’s those who cling on to controlling every last operational detail that are often the ones holding their business back from reaching its full potential.
So why is it beneficial to detach yourself from your precious business venture? The main reason – and it may seem a little at odds with itself – is that while you may be a veritable business-building machine, part of becoming a truly great business leader is recognizing that you possess neither the time nor the expertise to do everything by yourself.
It might be an overstatement to say we learned everything we needed to know in kindergarten, but it’s not far from the truth either. We did pick up some valuable skills in that tender phase of life, like sharing our blocks and saying you’re sorry when someone’s feelings got hurt. Here in the adult world, some of these universal, yet oft-forgotten, truths can still improve our daily lives and those of our employees if we continue to practice them in the workplace.
Sharing sounds like childish, but it’s actually a complex concept. It requires an understanding of empathy and compassion, seeing the needs of others and responding accordingly. Stable leaders have a natural instinct for practicing these traits in the workplace, and when you show your team that you care, it harbors a sense of trust and stability that improves both morale and productivity.
One of the most important elements of a positive, synergistic and healthy workplace environment is trust. Trust forms the foundation for effective communication and interaction, and provides a solid platform for employee engagement, retention, successful customer experiences, and satisfaction.
Trust goes beyond being able to rely upon someone. It is about character, ability, confidence, strength, faith, and conviction. When trust exists in an organization or in a relationship, almost everything else is easier and more comfortable to achieve which is why it’s so critical to build and maintain trust.
Like organizational culture, I believe trust starts at the very top – since trusting and being trust “worthy” can only exist when top management sets the example, and then promulgates that example into every business unit and department. This means establishing and maintaining integrity and communicating your vision and values through word and deed and doing what is right.
How does a successful top-level manager or CEO motivate employees and encourage productivity, while navigating the often-treacherous organizational waters? How do they surpass lofty expectations and deliver impressive results with pitfalls lurking around every corner?
Vision Driven: Lessons Learned from the Small Business C-Suite by Mallary Tytel reveals the secrets behind winning executives’ strategies for taking charge effectively of small organizations, both for-profit and nonprofit businesses. In clear, easy-to-understand prose that’s loaded with real-life examples, Vision Driven shows experienced and newly minted managers alike the dos, don’ts and don’t-even-think-about-its to take their organization to the next level.
The following are excerpts from Vision Driven: Lessons Learned from the Small Business C-Suite by Mallary Tytel, ©2009, 2013.
From the Introduction:
Being a CEO—or even upper-level officer or manager – is often a larger-than-life position and filled with questions that aren’t answered in an MBA education. Every challenge has multiple solutions, each of which can be right and wrong in a given situation. Therefore it is the questions and context we must pay attention to, and more often than not, that is where the learning and results come from.
The American business landscape is littered with CEOs who, for one reason or another, showed the public, investors and their peers precisely the wrong way to run companies. At the time of their tenure, some of these former industry heads were first touted as business geniuses. Now they’ve become examples of how not to behave if you want to run your own business.
Jonathan Schwartz – Sun Microsystems
Founded in 1982 by three graduate students from Stanford University, Sun Microsystems grew to be a giant in computer hardware and services. Jonathan Schwartz was named CEO in 2006 by the founding CEO, and prior to that point, the company had grown aggressively and showed steady profits. Nearly every move Schwartz made ended poorly, acquisitions failed, the stock tanked, and thousands of employees had to be laid off. Ultimately, the company was sold to competitor Oracle.
Startups are powered by their people more than any claim to a reputation, an established corporate structure, or any other resource readily available to big corporation budgets. As such, they have to be very careful when it comes to their hiring guidelines. Below are four essential rules that startups should keep in mind when it comes to hiring if they want to avoid superfluous employees.
1. Identify from the start the positions that require people with more experience.
As a startup working on a budget, you won’t be able to hire dozens of people across the board, but you should have one or two team members with stellar credentials to bring to the table. Just assigning them whatever role is open isn’t wise though – you have to put them in roles that deserve their expertise.
Love him or hate him, you must admit that Vito Corleone, head of the fictional New York crime family in the film The Godfather, adeptly built a thriving “business.” Nefarious goals and bloody outcomes aside, what can we learn from him about effective business operations?
1. Branding is in the details. The Godfather without strong branding would have been nothing more than a petty criminal with an annoying voice. Instead, he built a rock solid brand, a reputation that was paramount to his success. No detail went unnoticed in establishing his powerful presence, from his dark attire, to the mood lighting in his office, to the theatrical application of that gravelly mumble. In today’s business environment, branding is the difference between being remembered and getting lost in the fray. A successful brand should be carefully crafted and bolstered with attention to detail similar to Corleone’s, including staff selection, wardrobe choices, even the font in your emails.
2013 was a great year for Guidant. We celebrated our tenth anniversary, launched a new website and helped hundreds of people realize their business ownership dreams. As the year comes to a close it’s tempting to mentally check out and enjoy the social parts of the season. But I’ve found that the quieter time that comes with people being on vacation is perfect for doing some deep thinking about want I want to accomplish in the coming year. Here are my resolutions for 2014:
1. Provide even greater value to our clients through education.
Knowledge is power, and when people have the facts about the different ways they can become business owners, they are empowered to choose what’s right for them. Our new website has a section called “Study Hall” devoted to educating would-be business owners.
2. Raise the awareness of Rollovers as Business Startups (ROBS).
The greatest challenge of our business is that potential business owners have either never heard of ROBS, or, because of its complexity make the faulty assumption that there is something quasi-legal about it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For any business owner, sustainability and growth are always top of mind. You want to invest in growth while realizing a positive return. As you contemplate your long-term goals, here are the top three investments to consider:
1. Technology infrastructure – It’s important to operate off a scalable technology platform – one that enhances employee performance. Because technology impacts every sector of your business, it’s important that it provides a simple and flexible experience for your team members so that they can maximize efficiency.
Keeping up with cutting edge trends that you can implement first in your industry is a great way for your company to stay ahead of the curve and stand out. Don’t be afraid to take risks!