Have you ever dreamed of taking a two-week vacation (or being able to attend a conference) without having to check in on your business at all?
Or have you ever longed for the day when you didn’t feel like the whole weight of your business was only on your shoulders and instead you had a team of people who would help shoulder that burden?
Well, those dreams and longings don’t have to be fictional any longer. And, more critically for this blog, if your dreams include scaling your business, then this solution has to be in place. You have to have a great management team in place to scale.
However, as you’ve probably discovered, that’s easier said than done. There are plenty of bad and dysfunctional management teams around.
Now, clearly, getting the right people on the team is critical to building a great management team. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is going to assume you have the right people on the team. The problem is that they’re not functioning like a great team.
So, how do you turn that around? Well, here are four ideas that you have complete control over (i.e. they’re all about you) that can help you turn an average and occasionally dysfunctional management team into a great management team for your business.
I. Lead But Don’t Micromanage
One of the great challenges for any business owner and/or entrepreneur is that when they started their business, they were it. I’m sure you can relate. You made all of the decisions. You did most of the work. You developed a business that reflected you and your preferences. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
The problem comes when your business grows and it needs more leaders to handle that growth. So you go out and hire a leader, someone who can join your management team. Unfortunately, the problem with leaders is that they … well, they want to lead. They want their boss to say, “There’s a hill, go take it.” And then they want that boss to leave them alone unless they ask for help or feedback.
Unfortunately for them, when their boss is used to making all of the decisions, they tend to want to keep making all the decisions—which is why so many business owners and/or entrepreneurs tend to be micromanagers.
- “Don’t do it that way”
- “I wouldn’t do it that way”
- “Here’s what you need to do”
- “Did you think about …?”
- “Check with me before you …”
- “You missed this little thing …”
Listen, there’s nothing wrong with you, as an owner/CEO saying, “Here’s where we’re headed,” (even better if the “here” is developed with your team), that’s leadership. Leadership sets targets and goals. It also holds people responsible for the results they’re supposed to produce. And it sets boundaries for those people to operate within. But good leadership is never about micromanaging.
Which means that if you want to build a great management team, you want to focus your efforts on leading your team to new heights, not on micromanaging their decisions and actions. You want to hold them accountable but not micromanage them. And you want to set boundaries for them to act within, not micromanage every decision.
So how are you doing at leading but not micromanaging?
II. Empower But Don’t Abdicate
The second problem that a lot of business owners and/or entrepreneurs face when they start building a leadership team is the opposite of point one, they start to abdicate. In other words, they disengage too much.
Again, this makes complete sense. If you’ve been leading your business for a number of years and have been overwhelmed either because you had too much to do or you didn’t know how to do something, there’s a natural desire to want to alleviate that overwhelm by dumping and running.
For example, let’s say you don’t like sales or marketing or finance. You go out into the marketplace and find someone who can take that off your plate. You hire them and say, “This is now your area. Now, make it work.”
In your mind, you justify your dump and run style because “Well that’s what I hired them to do.” Or, “But they know that area better than I do.” However, that’s not leadership, that’s abdication.
Leaders don’t abdicate, they lead. And the way they lead is they stay engaged and empower that person they’re leading to accomplish the result they’re responsible for producing.
Whenever you hear someone like me say that “leadership is more art than science,” this is one of those times. How do you balance leadership and empowering without micromanaging or abdicating? It’s a tenuous line that you have to feel out. And the way you’ll learn is usually by blowing it. And that’s okay. Just own up to it and learn from it and you’ll be okay.
So, how are you doing at not running and dumping? How are you doing at empowering without abdicating?
III. Socialize But Don’t Try To Be Best Friends
Virtually every leader I’ve ever known has had to traverse this principle in their own experience. On paper, it sounds like a good idea, “Be friends with your employees,” or “Be great friends with your management team.” I mean, how do you argue with being in a good relationship with those you lead?
The problem is that the “boss hat” and the “friend hat” are often in conflict. As a boss, you have to dictate priorities and hold them accountable. As a friend, you don’t. Even worse, the more they perceive you as a friend, the less likely they are to respond to you when you critique them or hold them accountable, “But I thought we were friends.”
And the ultimate problem arises if you need to fire them.
BTW, this is one of the reasons why I’m against hiring family members. It’s not that it can’t be done, it’s just fraught with more problems than any other relationship. Turning on and off the boss/employee relationship is tough normally. But what if you need to fire your spouse or child or cousin or uncle or brother or sister? How do you think family gatherings are going to go every upcoming Christmas? Easter? Birthday? July 4th? Labor Day? Memorial Day? Wedding? Etc.
And if the person you hire on your management team is related to one of your other employees, you could lose two employees over firing one of them.
Bottomline, being best friends is not what leaders do. You want to be friendly. You want to socialize. You want to be friends. But you can’t cross over that line to being “great friends” or “best friends.” That’s a dumb tax lesson that can be avoided if you simply trust and apply this principle. Remember, not every lesson has to be learned the hard way :-).
Note: I’ve focused the content of this point on the fact that more owners/entrepreneurs try to be best friends than are aloof. However, if your issue is that you tend to be aloof with your team and employees, make sure you start doing more social things with your people, especially your top team because it’s hard to build a great management team if it’s all about business all of the time.
So, how are you doing at socializing without trying to be best friends?
IV. Trust But Don’t Forget to Verify
The final issue that typically hinders great management teams from forming is related to principle number two on abdicating. Trust is critical to every relationship. If you remove trust from any relationship, the relationship is effectually over. This is one of the reasons why micromanaging is so damaging, it communicates lack of trust.
However, trust doesn’t mean abdication. Just because you’ve hired someone to lead a division (even if you’re paying them well) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be inspecting their work or holding them accountable for results. So, how can you balance the two?
Well, in the world of systems (the essential building block of scalability), you build in systems that allow you to verify the work they and their team are doing. And your systems (in this case, controls), don’t have to be complicated. For example, you could use
- Daily Meetings – Everyday they should be sharing what they did yesterday and what they’re going to be working on today. By listening, you should be able to verify their progress (or non-progress) without having to ask any questions.
- Weekly Management Meetings – Every week they should be recounting where they are in process and how they’re doing on hitting their metrics
- Project Management Software – You should have access to see how progress is being made on every project in your business. You can peek in anytime and ensure that progress is being made without them feeling like you’re “micromanaging.”
- Dashboards – You could have key projects or key metrics fed into your dashboard so you can verify where they are without having to ask.
- Monthly Summaries – You could have each of your management team members write up a monthly summary of what they accomplished and where they are on their key metrics
And, of course, you can always check in with them during your regularly scheduled meetings (whether they’re weekly, b-weekly or monthly). Just don’t tell them how to fix the problems if they’re running behind. You want to communicate, “I trust you’ll fix this.” If they ask you for some ideas, ask them back first, “So, what are your best ideas?” before you share any of your own. You want to make sure they’re doing their job and that they know you trust them to make it happen.
So, how are you doing at trusting but verifying?
Well, there you have it. Four keys to building a great management team that can actually produce results for your business.
- Lead but don’t micromanage
- Empower but don’t abdicate
- Socialize but don’t try to be best friends
- Trust but don’t forget to verify
In light of those four ideas, what’s the next step you need to take this week to build a better management team?
To your accelerated success!