Perhaps the biggest leadership challenge for most small and medium businesses is the inability of leaders to let go. Employing people with the ability to make key decisions is important, but staff empowerment comes mostly from the leaders’ ability to delegate. It’s common for owners especially, to act like they are the glue that holds the team together when instead they should act like the grease that helps keep the entire machine working.
The picture below is the reality for resource-strapped start-ups and most smaller businesses of course, but as the business grows, if you don’t grow the team alongside it, then this creates bottlenecks to growth and long working hours for the bottlenecks themselves i.e. you!
As an owner or business leader, you simply can’t have rapid growth and still retain the same level of control you used to have. A business will never grow beyond the limits of the owner/leader if staff underneath them are not empowered to make important decisions and take action.
To grow you must let go by:
- Systemising the business with a clear way of how we do things around here (covered in the next section).
- Recruiting talented people with the right level of ability/ autonomy for the job.
- Empowering them with clear directions, KPI’s, ownership and accountability (delegation/division of responsibility).
- Coaching them when they need help
- Continuing to do this until you make yourself almost redundant in the business.
An accurate organisational chart, job descriptions, and KPI’s will all reflect the degree to which this empowerment has occurred or not within a business.
Finally, a few ideas on how to increase staff empowerment:
- Give non-financial recognition both personally and in front of their peers.
- Give staff at least one dedicated hour of your time each week in a regular 1:1.
- Ensure you’re not doing too much of the talking in meetings, and that you’ve made it explicitly clear to staff how they should participate and add value in those discussions.
“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
Evolution of a Management Relationship