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Hidden Leadership; Are You Overlooking Your Greatest Asset?

hidden leadership

It blows my mind how often I hear the founders of struggling small businesses say words to the effect of “If you want a job done right, you’ve got to do it yourself” or; “I just want to sell products online because I don’t want the headache of managing a team”. Personally, I find this attitude borderline #batshitcrazy and believe that it’s precisely this thinking that makes business feels like hard work.

To everyone who thinks this way, here’s an idea… get over yourself.

I’ll begin my rant by deconstructing the phrase “If you want a job done right, you’ve got to do it yourself”.

Really?

In the age of Elance, Odesk, Freelancer and Airtasker (to name a few) are you really so incredible that there is no one in the world that can do a job better than you?  I mean, really?

To be fair, I can totally imagine a blacksmith 150 years ago attempting to delegate some hammering to the butcher down the road that didn’t end up going so well.  With no local communications to speak of and the maximum speed of the best steed topping out at 20kph, I get the limitations of finding quality talent back then and the subsequent ‘do it yourself’ attitude.  In the age of the entrepreneur, where our technology rivals The Jetsons, a ‘DIY’ attitude is an anachronism.

FACT: I’m part of an amazing team.

25 FTE in 8 timezones plus a bunch of contractors and I mean it when I say they’re the best thing since the iPhone. I couldn’t get anything of real consequence done without ‘em.  No one has a set time that they needs to clock on or off, in fact we’ve never even monitored hours worked.  We have no limit on amount of holidays people can take.  They can take a three month holiday if they want, so long as deliver results.

The really cool thing is that in my business at least, this approach works.  From winning a Guinness World Record in Speed Pitching in the UK to becoming the 9th fastest growing company in Australia, we’re cooking with gas so I feel like I can speak from experience.

For me, the process of creating a team begins (at least it did with me) with an attitude that was rooted in a simple premise:

“I know what I want but I don’t know how to make it happen so I need good people to tell me what to do.”

That shift in the role of my team being about telling me what to do and not the other way around has been the single most powerful shift in thinking when it comes to creating a high performance team culture.

Too often I see business owners adopting a top down dictatorial approach of micro managing their team members ‘To Do’ list.  We actually had to let go of someone for not being able to shake this toxic attitude because it implies that they can do everyone else’s job better than they can. At best it’s intellectually dishonest, at worst, it’s #batshitcrazy.

When I’m interviewing a prospective addition to our team, after explaining our vision I’ll say stuff like “… so that’s what we’re here to get done, how can you help?”

Few have ever been asked that question before and it’s the quality of their answer determines whether they get the gig.

As a founder, taking this position changes everything.

My team develop their own key performance indicators. On the low side, I ask them for what the result would be that’s so bad, so embarrassing to them as a creative being that they would resign if they did so badly, I want to know what would be the result they would be so-so about, and a result they could be truly proud of.  They then present these not just to myself but to our entire team, who collaboratively work out whether those results will enable us to achieve our bigger vision as a company.

Sure, every now and again you get a moocher who wants a free ride. Eventually it always comes to light (usually quicker than in a more traditional management approach I find) and so you train them and warn them and train them and eventually you sack them or they quit. It’s rare though, and in my experience when you give people the freedom and autonomy to do great work and work they love, in return they will blow your mind with their ability to self organize and perform at a high level.

This was a major shift in thinking for Ozzie at Guardian Strata, the founder of a strata management company I’m helping to turn around with the support of Microsoft, David Koch and 3 other business mentors.  You can see my first article about the high tech business makeover here.

For the project (which is still running), I’m working with Moe Serdal, who previously has been massively under-utilised.  He didn’t have a job title or job description to speak of and yet his vision for the business I believe eclipsed that of even the founders.

The moment I recognised his enthusiasm, I knew that giving Moe the authority to lead the team, especially at an operational level, would enable him to really lean into his work. It would also free up Ozzie to do more of the work that a founder should.  More on that here.

I rarely work 1-on-1 with people and even more seldom do I advise non founders because they usually lack the ability to influence the direction of an organization. Moe, however, has proven to have all the attitudinal traits of a great leader.  I gave him a few tips on how to think about creating a high performance team and boom.  He got them implemented, saw the real world results and within a week he’d written a blog about it.  Hustle.  I love it. (Read Moe’s blog here)

To put into perspective the volume of change taking place in Guardian Strata at the moment; Microsoft has injected a suite of technological marvels into the business that would make most business owners heads spin.  This kind of systemic change can push a team to breaking point and yet Moe took charge of managing the adoption.

“Tell me what you need to be comfortable using this new technology” was one of his first questions to the team.  What a great question!  As great leaders do, he then went about making sure they had everything they needed to get on with the job at hand.

I encourage you to make a list of every task you do over the course of the next week or two.  When you review the list, ask yourself “Am I really the best person to do this?”  My bet is that the answer will be NO to over 70%.  The remaining 30% will be the stuff that you don’t just love to do, but are in fact really great at and it’s that stuff that creates lasting value.

What would your business look like if you empowered great people to do the stuff you suck at and reclaimed 70% more time and energy to actually be an entrepreneur?

For more information on the Gaurdian Strata Small Business Makeover check out www.ModernBiz.com.au #ModernBiz