"If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room"
A boss asked me once "Are you working ON the business or IN the business?" He was a President I directly reported to. It was asked while we were reviewing the financials I was responsible for together. That advice remained with me. It rings true if not several times a day, it is magnified often. I've seen many entrepreneurs struggle with growth. Often, it is because they have difficulty letting go and allowing other people to take over.
There is a fine line between "if I don't do the work, nobody else cares as much as I do about success" and "hiring people whom you trust, mentor and help follow in your footsteps so you can focus on the business and not the tasks".
Once you consider that advice, you can clearly see those that fall into the trap from those that make the transition successfully.
I recommend succession planning from day one. That way, you will ensure you have the "right" people ready so you focus ON the business. You will discover yourself moving beyond tasks to vision.
A Fortune 500 corporation that I worked was phenomenal at succession planning. The previous year’s ink would barely be dried and already planning for that year’s end began. All managers would meet, bringing forward candidates for consideration for that year’s leadership path. Amongst the pool, three or four would be agreed upon. The culture dictated that everyone, from the VP to the operations team, would help groom and prepare that candidate for a leadership post by year’s end.
Wise entrepreneurs will take heed: Don’t wait until your back is against the wall, crisis sets in, or you're being shredded apart by the bombardment of decisions that freeze your organization until you give your blessing. That isn't leadership. It is fuelling the ego and the need to be in control. Often it is disguised. If you are leader in place by shareholders or executives what goes around comes around eventually ... to bite you. If you are an owner/principle of the organization, who has the nerve to tell you that you should be grooming your people to be able to step up in a heartbeat. They should have the confidence that they are not being set up to fail or be reprimanded for making the wrong decision.
Start today. Look around you. Who has potential to step in and step up in the event a crisis arises and let’s say an instantaneous decision has to be made and you’re in the air flying somewhere, and unreachable? (I’d rather not present a situation that is more life-threatening to raise alarm bells.) If you are hedging on a quick answer, then you have a huge issue to deal with.
Take a chapter from Steve Jobs, whom we are examining more and more after his passing. He was known to say that one of his greatest skills was recognizing and managing talent. The book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins provides oodles of examples of extremely successful empires that were only successful while its main leader was holding all the reigns. What resonates with me on the book is that the organizations that continue to weather many storms and survive decades are when the leadership surrounds itself with highly capable individuals who may be more talented in a particular area.
This may require baby steps. It isn’t easy to give up “control”. Often, ego gets in the way. I’ve seen executives confuse surrounding themselves with “yesmen” (aka political/gender unbiased “yes people”) as having the right people on the bus. Don’t fall into that trap.
You may have someone that bristle hair on the back of your neck when they don’t succumb to your point of view and are prepared to be passionate to argue a different stance. They may go against the rest of the “yesmen” team. Don’t consider that person controversial, not a team player, or opinionated. Look beyond the style to the substance behind the argument. Consider the passionate ideas behind the message that they are prepared to stand up for. Consider embracing them.
Perhaps it would be wise to sit down separately to clarify their ideas, coach on the style. You could end up discovering that they "get it" and truly cares enough about your success or that of the organization because they’re prepared to risk themselves for that. I’d put my money before one individual like that, than 10 “yesmen” All may be equally talented in several ways, but success doesn’t make a good bedfellow with “yesmen”.
Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed where a leader may have had only one truly trusted sidekick. No disrespect intended for “sidekick” – that trusted someone that you share friendship, respect, vision, workload with. That person could be gone and then what? That is why I recommend you create a team of experts that truly respect each other and share the same vision you do, with the ultimate passion and talent to drive success. That team can be “masters of their domain”. They’re people you trust with your vision and believe in the organizations success before their own political prowess. Try not to give only one other “power”. You could be still limiting the organization the same way as if everything halts if you’re not there to stamp “GO”.
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
~Dwight D. Eisenhower
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