Part 2 of a 5-part Leadership series. (If you missed Part 1, see it here.)
You launched your company, how long ago now? And you've spent much of that time doing whatever it takes to grow the customer list, sell, and deliver. But lately, you've realized you're not getting beyond the point of making just enough money to survive if you're lucky. The good news is that if you're making just enough, there's probably a market for what you do. The bad news is that if you continue to mop the floors, you won't grow much—as a leader or a company.
This realization is one reason that drives many business owners to seek me out as a life and business coach. Odds are, you're a natural-born leader, but that doesn't mean there's not a lot to learn. It's one thing to operate your company and quite another to take it to the next level with solid leadership skills. Let's look at some of the common stumbling blocks I encounter with the founders who are ready for a change but aren't making it happen.
Business owners who are stuck believe they can't afford to hire.
I always say, “If you believe it, it's true!” I have yet to coach someone who couldn't afford a new hire. That's because, together in coaching, we quickly identify creative ways to secure the ongoing funds for a new hire.
You create a game plan when you work with a business coach. You'll have a growth strategy, and when you bite the bullet and hire someone to do the work that takes up much of your time, you'll be free to bring in new business. However, if you transfer your time from one mundane task to another, you'll fail. You must have a plan to increase the company's profits before outsourcing or making a hiring decision. Sometimes the answer lies as close to your existing client list, a company or individual willing to increase their spending. Don't hesitate to go after this low-hanging fruit; all they can do is say yes or no.
Get an employee training process in place.
Before you delegate anything, have a training process in place. If the work that keeps you from growing your business is computer-related, record your screen as you go through each step of every process. Find a way to easily document the work you do and use this documentation in your training. Your new employee can do the work to make it pretty, so don't worry about how it looks.
Be courageous about delegation.
Your new people are more likely to do things differently than you and less likely to do it all wrong, which is what most entrepreneurs fear. Different isn't bad if it gets the same or better results. If they make mistakes, correct them. Yes, it is that easy. Time-consuming? Sometimes, but in the long run, not so much. This mental adjustment is one of the most challenging for entrepreneurs. I hear it all the time, “By the time I teach someone else to do this, I could have done it myself.” Oh sure, that's true, but how often do you want to repeat tasks that don't grow your business? Bite the bullet, do some excellent training, and let these jobs go.
Leadership means building a team you can trust.
Whether you hire one or multiple people to help you grow, they must be the right people. It's one thing to outsource small tasks or hire a bookkeeping service, but you must select your team members carefully.
The biggest problem with new business coaching clients who already have people on board is that the founder hasn't developed a desirable culture before onboarding. We'll get into some of the nuts and bolts of this in the culture development article two weeks down the road, but for now, suffice it to say that you need to hire people whose values coincide with your own.
If, for instance, you want an organization where people feel fulfillment in their work, but you hire someone who wants to punch the clock for the paycheck, neither of you will be happy. Work with your business coach to identify the core values to introduce into your company culture and create an interviewing process that explores the values of your applicants. When your people possess values that identify closely with your own, you will build mutual trust and respect.
Great leaders mentor their employees.
Some entrepreneurs have strong opinions in opposition to mentoring employees, to the point where they call it babysitting, which they claim they don't have time for. I assure you that mentoring your employees will substantially increase retention and job satisfaction. Solid mentorship opportunities will attract high-potential job candidates eager to learn and advance. As you lead and mentor your employees, you will notice that sales growth and other goals are achieved faster. And lastly, things will be done right, which brings us full circle to why you probably don't want to delegate in the first place—a fear of things not being done correctly. Teaching and guiding your employees is the only way to guarantee your desired results.
Set mutually agreed-upon goals for your employee(s), and don't let those targets linger in the ether. Do brief weekly and longer monthly meetings with your team members to review and guide them. This time will come back to you tenfold.
Hire slow, fire fast.
Hire slow. Have a process that will help you locate, interview, and onboard individuals who will contribute talent, skill, and positivity to your culture. If hiring for a critical position, take your top candidates to dinner or another activity. Invite their significant other, even their kids. Talk about hobbies and interests outside of work. Make sure your values are aligned.
Fire fast. Again, do what it takes to train, support properly, and mentor your employees. When they make mistakes, review them honestly and restate your expectations. If costly mistakes continue, it's time to let go.
One bad apple can spoil the whole team. It's not easy to let go of an underperformer or someone with a negative attitude, but these characteristics are toxic and contagious. Whether it's due to attitude or poor performance, don't be afraid to fire someone. I've seen entrepreneurs hold on to a poor fit out of fear, which never bodes well for the company.
Are you afraid that you'll get stuck doing the work? That you won't be able to find a replacement? Perhaps it's simply conflict avoidance on your part. If that's the case, know this: If you have an employee who is a poor culture fit and an underperformer, it inevitably means they too are unhappy. Everyone will find happiness on the other side of their walking papers.
Practice what you preach.
As you grow your culture (more on this later in this series), you will identify values that the company and your team live by. Let's say you have a value such as flexibility, which might mean your team can work with some flexibility and your company is flexible in resolving your clients' issues. Now let's say that you are inflexible and narrow-minded; your team and clients will become frustrated and eventually leave.
A little bit of tough love here. If you experience resistance, poor attitude, and unsatisfactory performance in a team member you've carefully selected, look in the mirror first. Most often, the leader fails, not the employee who was once the perfect fit for the job. Have you been embodying your own company culture? Have you been living up to your standards, keeping your promises, and demonstrating positive values to your team and customers?
Be a decision-maker and take inspired action.
Creative and driven employees and expectant customers want to see your products and services evolve. Too many entrepreneurs have let great plans and ideas stagnate and die. I suggest a quarterly off-site, whether it's with employees, your coach, or just you, to review growth goals and any changes that will lead to better efficiencies and an improved work environment.
There are times when circumstances prevent business owners from achieving specific goals, but most often, procrastination and fear-related issues stop us in our tracks. If you are indecisive or don't have your priorities in order, your behavior will be reflected in your team's performance.
Leaders have an appreciation for learning. Build time into your schedule to read, listen to podcasts, work with a coach, and travel to conferences. Primarily, be open to feedback and embrace change. I've never worked with an entrepreneur who does these things and still fails.