Let’s take a look at Mr. Nice Manager’s business.
Mr. Nice Manager steps out of his office to where his team is working. The business grew recently – there has been a small surge in clients – so he hired some superstars to join the team.
These are good team members, he had been really careful with his recruitment. He gazes around at the room and notices there is a bustle of activity. Everyone is busy.
He walks around and has some brief chit-chat with his employees.
He asks one of them, “How is work going?”
His team member replies, “I’m really busy, but I think it’s all fine. I’ll just get on with it.”
“Great!” Mr. Nice Manager says, glad to see his team member taking initiative, and continues on his way. He has similar experiences with all his other team members. Everyone is busy with whatever they are doing, but they’re fine.
The next day, Mr. Nice Manager does the same thing. He walks around and asks his team members, “How is work going?”
And they all reply with, “Great. I’m really busy, but I think it’s fine. I’m getting on with it.”
So Mr. Nice Manager is happy, his staff like him, and everyone is working hard.
However, when it comes time to review the business performance at the end of the month, there aren’t any new leads! There are 20 customer complaints still pending. Profit has dropped to dangerously low levels.
“What happened? Who was responsible for this?” Mr. Nice Manager asks. No one is quite sure who was meant to handle the complaints – was that Fred’s job? Or Anne’s? Or David’s? No one knows exactly where the profits got lost, and the marketing team don’t know why their latest email didn’t produce any leads.
So Mr. Nice Manager has to spend the next few days scrambling to track down what went wrong with each complaint, to figure out which marketing channels could get leads quickly, to track down where money is haemorrhaging out of the business, and fix a thousand small problems that he didn’t know had cropped up.
It suddenly feels like he is doing a lot more work than he had ever been doing before when it was just him.
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Now let’s go across the street…
This is where Mr. Detailed Delegator runs his business. He isn’t walking around his office today because it’s Wednesday. Although he does ask his marketing executive if the blog post is ready for his review. “It’s in your inbox, as usual,” is the response.
You see, on Monday, Mr. Detailed Delegator has meetings with each of his employees. Each team member comes to the meeting with a simple spreadsheet. This meticulously details the activities they are planning to accomplish each week for the next quarter.
They run through the activities they were meant to do the previous week, assessing if they were done or not and why. He praises them for jobs well done and gives them the room to be accountable for anything outstanding.
They then confirm the goals for the coming week, identifying what is particularly critical. The planner is a living document that updates every week. Activities move around as new priorities crop up and as things don’t go as initially planned. However, together they carefully ensure that the ‘big rocks’ are still getting done and the primary goals of the business are being met.
By Wednesday, everyone is very clear on what they are doing, which jobs they need to prioritise, and what is most important to keep the business ticking. Mr. Detailed Delegator confidently knows what each and every member of staff is doing and why they are doing it.
And he has freed up both time and headspace to work ‘on’ the business (and to go home early to help his daughter prepare for her upcoming exams).
When it comes to the end of the month, a selection of new leads is presented to Mr. Detailed Delegator, each labelled with the stage they are at in the sales pipeline and with notes about whether or not his sales manager thinks they’ll convert.
There were 3 customer complaints, and each has been explained and handled with the kind of precision and care that Mr. Detailed Delegator is satisfied with.
Profits are stable, and it is clear exactly which channels have driven profit up that month and where money is being drained, so that they can work towards an even better profit margin in the following month.
And Mr. Detailed Delegator has noticed that one of his employees didn’t miss out a single task this month so was easily able to give him a small reward for this.
Mr. Detailed Delegator is happy, has enough time to spend with his family, his staff like him, and no one feels overworked.
A lot of people would say that Mr. Detailed Delegator is a ‘micromanager’. But the truth is, one of the primary reasons businesses fail when attempting to expand is due to poor leadership, or more, lack of delegation. And delegation has to come with micromanagement.
If you, the business owner, delegate work without being specific about the reason for that work being done, the specific activities that are needed to reach the end desired results, and how you are going to measure the progress and results – then you are not delegating, you’re abdicating.
When your business is growing and you are not able to delegate effectively, you’re hiring people and you’re getting busy and bogged down in the minutia of attempting to manage this now highly complex business. There’s more stress, less profit, and it feels like things would just run smoother if you did everything yourself.
What you need to do is be a little more of a micromanager: monitor the activities of your team carefully and make sure they are staying on course. You (together with them) lay down the train tracks and they charge the trains down that path.
You should not need to hover over your team or be constantly breathing down their neck. But you do need to be aware at all times of what your team is working on, and they need to be aware at all times about why they are doing it.
That way your team is motivated, you’re in control, and your business can only soar.
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