Today, I thought we ought to take a look at one of the key ways in which you can free yourself up to work ‘on’ your business as opposed to always working ‘in’ your business. It all comes down to two words that are a LOT easier to say than to implement. Delegate and Empower.
Have you read Steven Covey’s ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ yet? I know I have mentioned it before, back on Day 8 – Leaders are readers and indeed at other times. However, one of the fundamental messages and lessons I took from reading that book came in the early chapters. Perhaps even the first. Let’s, for a moment, take a look at the word ‘responsible’ or ‘responsibility’. Interpreted one way, ‘responsible’ can be seen as comprising the two words: ‘response’ and ‘able’. Indeed Covey argues that proactive people, like you and me, people that stand up and take action, are ‘able to respond’ to a given situation or challenge.
I see many Entrepreneurs and business leaders who spend FAR (sorry for the emphasis, but it’s relevant) too much time working ‘in’ their business, as opposed to working ‘on’ it. The reasons are many and varied. Perhaps you know someone like that? Perhaps they can’t let go? Maybe they don’t ‘trust’ the people they have around them to do the job as they would wish it done. Or maybe they haven’t put a succession plan in place yet because ‘everything has been about getting to this point’.
Well, I believe firmly that more employers need to remember the lesson from Covey that we are all, essentially, able to respond given the challenge. Look around you at the people in your company today. Didn’t they this morning make a decision to:
- get out of bed at a sensible time
- take care of their personal hygiene
- turn up to work looking respectable
- hold the door open for the person rushing behind them
- offer to make a coffee for you or one of your team
So, whilst we may wonder how some of those guys and girls got to sit out there in the office, it’s worth remembering that they too make hundreds if not thousands of independent decisions every day. It is therefore inappropriate to dumb them down, (deliberately or otherwise,) to the point where we have to tell them how to do every single task. No, perhaps we can embrace their individuality and characters a bit more and learn to delegate and empower them to do their job and make decisions for us.
After all, delegation is about giving employees a certain degree of autonomy and responsibility for decision-making regarding their specific organisational tasks. We are not entirely giving over to them custody of the business. There are many different reasons for delegating that you may not realise:
- Firstly, it frees you up to focus on more pressing tasks that only you can do
- Maybe you don’t realise this but it can improve employee morale no-end to be more involved in decision-making and to be given more responsibility
- As a consequence you also build in a greater degree of decentralisation to your decision making, which can be advantageous as a business grows and specifically when it outgrows your base (headquarters) and reaches into new locations
- Finally, you build in more succession management, so if you decide to step away or if decision makers are ill, off sick, on leave or otherwise engaged, there is someone-else who can step in and take their place
- Ultimately, it means you’re building your business into a sustainable company that can survive when you are not there. The ultimate goal, surely!
Putting my customer experience hat on for a moment, there’s another angle to delegation and, more specifically, empowerment that I want to raise today. We need people on the ‘front-line’ facing our customers to be able to listen to customers’ grievances and do something about them. Customers get upset with us. If we take action, rather than just saying “sorry” then we can recover the relationship and trust in us.
What better way is there to do that than to treat our people like adults and empower them with meaningful decision making abilities, backed more importantly by some budget and the ability to spend money to help rectify situations that have caused customers distress.
How much should they be given to work with? Some businesses set a nominal amount. Say £100 and then you have to seek approval from someone more senior in the hierarchy if spending more money is required. I have worked with other, more enlightened businesses who set a ceiling much higher at say, £1000. However, the outstanding and leading businesses that really ‘get this’, do not set a limit at all. From what I know, this model works extremely well.
For those of you reading this thinking, “they must rack up a fortune in goodwill payments”, that simply is not the case. You see, by empowering your people and giving them your trust and backing, you will see that they too are capable of being sensible and responsible (that word again) and they treat the discretionary pot as if it were their own money. Whilst on occasion individual remedial actions may require a lot more money to resolve, most of the time the average cost of a goodwill gesture is way below that ceiling and much more in line with the costs incurred by the businesses that set strict limits.
So, I’m hoping today really will nudge you into thinking a bit differently about the people you select to help you build your business and I encourage you to treat them like you would be treated yourself – give them some autonomy, empower them and watch as you get the best out of them that way.
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Thanks for stopping by and see you for more tomorrow friends!
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