Today's topic is one that has been on a lot of contractor's minds lately. They've been asking me "How do I free myself from the constant phone calls from my employees? Can't anyone out there step up and make a decision?"
You've heard the answer for years. It is the magic elixir: DELEGATION.
All you have to do is delegate and you will find yourself with hours and hours of uninterrupted time to work ON your business. Just go out and delegate.
Whew. Got that problem solved. Now that wasn't so hard to fix, was it?
Wait a sec. What did you say? You've tried to delegate but no one stepped up? Those that did made stupid decisions that cost you money and clients? Delegating isn't so easy is it? That's okay. I'm here to help.
Lessons from the Animal Kingdom
The following lesson is taken from the book Flight of the Buffalo by James A. Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer. Belasco and Stayer compare the leadership styles of buffalo and geese. Yes, they actually have leadership styles.
When you micromanage, force most decisions through you, you are being a HEAD BUFFALO. When you share decision making authority, you are being a goose.
Buffalo herds ALWAYS follow their leader. They don't move unless the leader directs them to. Geese trade off the leading position. They are the ultimate in shared leadership.
Which is better?
Back in the Wild West days, hunters discovered that if you killed the HEAD BUFFALO, you could kill them all. Without direction from the HEAD BUFFALO, who was now dead, the others would stand around waiting for direction to run that never came. So, they just stood around watching each other fall.
Geese operate quite differently. They share leadership responsibilities, to the greater good of all. In case you haven't noticed, Geese fly in a V. V's are very aerodynamic. Less effort and energy are spent by the group than would be spent individually.
The lead bird, the one at the tip of the V, faces the greatest wind resistance. As it tires, it peels off to the back so it can coast and regain its strength.
Another bird moves up to the tip and takes over. A flock of geese can fly much faster and further than can an individual goose can. True teamwork and shared leadership.
Both lessons apply to business - your business.
If you don't learn to delegate, you're a head buffalo and you're never going to grow it past a couple of crews. Head buffalo's leave their family's financial security at great risk.
If you can delegate and empower, create an environment where workers take on as much responsibility as possible, your business will reach heights almost unimaginable.
Let's move on to the HOW of delegation. The hard part will be getting people to make sound decisions. The decisions you'd make if you were in their shoes.
The Delegation Process
Step 1: Undo the damage you've done.
Step 2: Start small.
Step 3: Force them to bring two solutions to the table.
Step 4: When something goes wrong, have them walk you through their thought process.
Step 5: Celebrate successes.
Step 6: Keep giving them rope until they hang themselves.
Step 7: Teach your team how to delegate.
Step 1: Undo the damage you've done
If you've been making the decisions and solving the problems, you've trained your team to rely on you. You've trained your team to NOT THINK. They've become comfortable with using you as their crutch.
The more you micromanaged, the harder it will be to retrain your people.
There's an old saying that goes like this. "The people who got you in the current mess are unlikely to have what it takes to get you out." Hopefully, YOUR team is capable of changing its stripes.
Step 2: Start small
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT go cold turkey with your delegation. You have to prepare your workers to step up. Always take small steps when passing on authority.
Check on them frequently to see how things are going.