If you hired the right managers, who are better than you in their areas of expertise, then the key to getting them to excel is simply to unleash them.
In other words, get out of his or her way!
You just need to let him make his own decisions, his own mistakes, and allow him to lead his own team. Once you realize that your “experience” and knowledge is actually holding your team back, then real growth can start.
If you’re doing ANY of the following, you’re holding your leaders back:
- Addressing issues with the team members who should report to him. This should be clearly defined in your organizational chart.
- Addressing issues from customers who should be talking to him. If your customers have been trained to go to you to get the best deal, then un-train them by making sure all pricing goes through your chosen leader.
- Vetoing ideas and making decisions in his department. Your job as the CEO, Owner, President or Team Leader is to explain why you think something will or will not work. Not to make the decision.
- Dictating that leader’s schedule. Sure you can ask him to take care of an issue or help you with something, but dictating a schedule without his approval is more like putting on a choke collar and then asking him to chase away the rabbits. He can try as hard as he wants but he’s never going to get the job done.
- Second-guessing or analyzing every decision. The details are not important to you, only the results are. Allow him to work out the details. (I explain below what to do if you think he’s going to implement a bad idea.)
- Holding regular meetings to ensure you ultimately get to make the “big” decisions. Quite often this is done indirectly. You might never come out and say, “It has to be done this way because I said so.” But saying, “You know, I really think that idea won’t work but it’s up to you,” is interpreted as “You better not try that!“, when it comes from most bosses.
- Ignoring mistakes that are made. This is a major misconception. Allowing people to make mistakes, in and of itself, is pretty worthless. Not addressing those mistakes is downright harmful to your business and the mistake maker. Mistakes should only be made once and the only way to ensure that your leader knows that it was a mistake, and has a way to prevent it from happening again, is to openly discuss mistakes. Biting your lip because you’re afraid to hurt his feelings by pointing out a mistake, is a sign that you still have him on a leash.
So how do you keep tabs on your newly free leaders?
- You need some “Rules of the Game” in the form of a written Vision, Mission and Culture. Think of these like your 10 Commandments of business. Everyone on your team doesn’t need to memorize them. However, your key leaders do need to know what’s expected of them and the clearest way to do that is in writing.
- You must have a Weekly Action SnapShot (WacSnap) so you can keep regular tabs on the key areas of your business. Depending on your function on the team, this may be included in a weekly meeting with your key leaders.
- You need Key Performance Indicators for each leader. For example:
- Service leaders need to demonstrate a profitable service department with minimal call-backs and customer complaints.
- Marketing leaders need a target acquisition cost, marketing ROI, number of leads, and conversion rate.
- Sales leaders also need to know conversion rate along with average dollar sale and lifetime value of a customer.
- Finance leaders need to know cash on hand, cash in receivables, and pending payables at all times. She also needs a target goal for savings and capital available for upcoming large purchases.
- At least twice a year you need to conduct a 12 Questions survey with each leader.
What if a leader is going to make a bad decision?
Have you ever made a bad decision? Since you’re reading this, then you somehow managed to survive it. Most poor decisions will fall on that side of the coin – They’re survivable. Keep that in mind.
- Ask him (don’t tell him) why he thinks X will work out well.
- Ask him if he knows of anyone else who has implemented it successfully. If not, and you have a resource for him to talk to on this topic, then offer it. You don’t have to pretend to be the expert on every topic. It’s much better to have a list of resources available.
- Let him know you’ve tried something similar to that before and ask if he’d like a few ideas.
- Find out how he plans to measure if the idea is successful or not. Every idea should have a measurement for success and just defining that allows most people to see the flaws in their own ideas.
- If he still thinks it’s a good idea, no one is going to die, the business isn’t going to go under, and an account worth more than 5% of your gross sales doesn’t have a highly likely chance of getting lost, back off and let him implement the idea.
- Once he realizes he’s made a mistake (which will be obvious if you did step #4), ask him what went wrong. Again, don’t just tell him. If you ever want him to think critically and figure out how to catch mistakes before they’re ever made, you have to stop spoon-feeding him all the answers.
- If the idea does work, congratulate him on a job well done! Now go celebrate because allowing a leader to do something you didn’t think would work and being proven wrong, just helped you take a giant leap towards growing your business without it depending solely on you.
Won’t that take more time than me just making all the decisions?
Yes. At first.
You can only physically make so many decisions so your growth will be limited. Additionally, your freedom and ability to take vacations will also be limited.
More importantly, the ability for your team managers to be fully engaged and satisfied with their work will also be very limited.
One last thought…
For some people, “unleashing” your managers is going to be a BIG change. You’re not quite ready for it and they don’t quite believe you’re serious.
So during this transition, when someone comes to you to ask a question, don’t assume she wants your opinion. Chances are she doesn’t. She just doesn’t fully believe the decision is in her own hands and still doesn’t want to do something you won’t like.
Before you answer her question, you need to ask directly, “Are you looking for my approval or my opinion? If you want my approval, you have it. If you want my opinion, I’ll only give it to you if you treat it for what it is. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the best decision for your team.”
More importantly, when you say that, you better mean it!
To your success in unleashing the talents within your leaders, Bryan