When I first started my company on a shoestring budget in 2010, I was the “head cook and bottle washer,” and I had to do everything to run the business and fulfill the client work. The incredible volume of decisions I had to make in addition to my daily client, administrative and marketing work was exhausting; but, after years hustling , my sales grew.
As my business expanded to several team members, I discovered how much I detested being called a boss or decision maker. Even in the beginning, I didn’t like it because…it’s only obvious that I would be the decision and have to decide for me, myself and I. Today, having a strong team surrounding me (each with different strengths and skill sets), I really don’t want to make decisions in isolation, especially those important decisions impacting the entire company.
Having served in several leadership positions outside of my own business, I have found empowering your board and committee to collect and cull information and provide recommendations results in better outcomes. When I started using that experience gained in the community leadership setting in my own business, I found that it not only worked, but worked surprisingly well!
On a larger scale, I suspect that the traditional hierarchical corporate structure no longer satisfies most millenials (Gen Y) and Gen Z’ers who now outnumber Gen X’ers and the remaining workplace Baby Boomers. Studies show that both millenials and Gen Z’ers want to be engaged, compelled and feel good; they want to make a difference. What better way to do that then to take the burden off yourself and allow them to take the lead.
I’m finding that I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Just earlier this week, successful law firm owner and powerhouse attorney Jennifer Englert shared on social media: “When you call The Orlando Law Group and ask for the person in charge… [we] can only refer you to Jesus, so I hope you have his number. Please tell all of your friends because [our staff] does not have time to take those calls.”
Recently, our firm switched one of our major pieces of software. The sheer number of times I had to put my other team members assisting me on the decision back on the chain of communications was frustrating. I was also criticized by one salesman for “shirking [my] decision making responsibility.” He added that they didn’t see me making it far in business. (That company obviously didn’t win our business.)
On another large decision recently, the sales person kept back channeling me in an attempt to reverse delegate the decision making process. I had intentionally delegated the decision making to a much more capable teammate who had the technical know-how necessary to vet the various technology options. After all, would you want your dentist operating on your foot? Of course not, he or she isn’t qualified. Why then must business owners who lack the knowledge in certain arenas push forward and make a decision, which only has to be fixed months down the road.
So how does that decision making process look in our office? First, I look at what is our decision that has to be made and who is most qualified to research and interpret possibilities and make the decision. Then, while I’m most certainly not a micro-manager, I do shadow the team member[s] through the first couple major projects and teach them how to gather the requisite information (e.g., questions to ask) and then summarize the gathered data for ease of review. I will then show them how I examine the information by looking at:
How will this fit into company’s budget?
How will this fit into the company’s processes?
Will this improve our processes?
Is this superior to what we are using currently?
Do I feel confident that I’ve reviewed all possibilities?
After the team member[s] responsible for making the decision are comfortable in making the decision, they can either make the decision, or, if they need approval for a budgetary variance or want further assurances, they can go to other teammates to discuss.
I’ve found this strategy to provide astounding results within my organization, and hope that other business owners consider letting capable team members “take the wheel.” I’m glad I did.