Leadership, Communication and the Entrepreneur

It’s easy to be drawn into wanting to do everything as a startup CEO. You are front and center in the hot seat with investors, working 7 days a week to make some progress and the people around you seem committed to achieving success, but perhaps not with the same zeal as you, the founder. Before you know it, you are doing so many things off hours, you wind up usurping the activities of the people on the team — especially the fledgling leadership team. Sound familiar?

Leadership means many things, but it does NOT mean you have to do everything. In fact, if you find yourself feeling like you need to do everything to get it right, you are probably not spending the right amount of time communicating your plans, your thoughts and your vision for the future of the Company. One of the most important skills of management is delegation — one of the easiest things to delegate are the items you know the best as they are easiest to manage downstream (e.g. review, comment and fix up if needed).

This time of year (early Q4) is often spent planning for the upcoming operational year — it’s a great time to get everyone involved in setting up the Company for success, getting buy-in for the goals and objectives established by the Board or yourself — it’s a great time to show how good a leader you are versus someone who appears to think the Company is run by one person and no one else gets it.

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One Response to Leadership, Communication and the Entrepreneur

  1. Adam White says:

    Problems delegating can been seen up and down the chain. At first level manager (or any level?) it can be hard to trust people to “do it right”. As a first level manager I found myself thinking “I could do this better and quicker myself” and most of the time I would step in. Luckily I caught this behavior early and took corrective action. Now I’m teaching other first level managers to watch for and correct the same behavior in themselves.

    How does one go about delegating effectively? You mentioned delegating the items you know best. I agree that this makes managing the downstream task easier. This wisdom tends to be counter to what most leaders want to do. They want to stay with the familiar becase they know they can succeed at it. It seems simple on the surface but it’s a fairly advanced method of delegating that requires being aware of many variables.

    Here is another – albeit more time consuming – delegation method I like to teach people. Write down the qualities you think a particular task needs and then rank each one of your team members on a scale of 10. When you are done add up the columns and see what the totals are. I recently used this with one of the managers who works with me; here is what we did.

    In our notebooks we outlined what we wanted to achieve. Then we created a table that contained the list of things that were important. Across the top of the table we put each team member’s name and then proceeded to rank them in terms of what we knew about their ability to handle the task.

    Goal: Decide who to delegate leadership of project X to
    Challenge: Turn our intuitive knowledge about each person into something more concrete

    Attributes we decided were important

    Exposure to project X’s problem domain
    Experience leading people
    Interaction w/ other teams
    Desire/Motivation to lead
    Percieved amount of oversight/involment required.
    Pro-active Problem solving
    People skills (persausion, negotiation)
    Risk to Me if they mess up.
    Risk to them if they mess up

    We did the ranking in our notebooks so we wouldn’t get distracted by technology and could focus on the discussion. This really opened up the opportunity for learning and coaching. I had to do a lot of self managing to not sway the manager’s opinion! It made the decision on who to delegate this task to quite apparent.

    One other thing we talked about was the time horizon of the task. My method (and your method) requires you to “know” your people well. If you are delegating a task that is going to take 3 months and the employee has trouble looking 2 weeks out then you are going to run into many frustrations.

    I like your thoughts about spending time communicating your thoughts, plans and vision for the future. How much time do people spend doing this type of thinking and sharing on their own – let alone with their team? I’m guessing that topic could fill a few chapters of book.

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