How do leaders make time to lead and innovate, especially if they are at the helm of a small firm like mine? I lead an 11-person PR and marketing firm, which presents a number of challenges that boil down to one big question: How can I make time to lead and innovate while still needing to play the role of a worker bee? The answer really is beautiful in its simplicity: Build a dynamic team you trust, invest in them and invest in yourself.
It really is beautiful in its simplicity in theory, but not so easy in practice. When I started at my current company, there were only two of us, and we did everything from the big-picture planning to sending individual press releases. I believe that our unflagging attention to detail was one of the keys to our success, so it can be hard for me to let go of those details. Understanding that the best thing for your company is for you to step away from various day-to-day tasks and to empower others around you is half the battle. Below are a few other tips to help you take the next steps.
Build a dynamic team that you trust.
Take a look around at the faces in your office. Are you the smartest person in the room? Maybe you are truly the smartest person in the room in one area or another, but to build the best possible team you need to hire people who are smarter or more capable than you in the skill sets they were hired for.
I can honestly say that my conversational intelligence around all that my firm does is top-notch, but when it comes to executing the work to produce results, my team outshines me at every turn. While I am here to help guide their ideas, provide direction when needed, conduct a brainstorming session or offer insights on a campaign in progress, it is their ability to execute those tasks that make my firm shine. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You know you are strong, but imagine how strong your chain would be if you were the weakest link.
If you find yourself continually covering for an employee, it might be time to revisit their status. But if you hire right, you should find yourself ensuring that their work is recognized internally and with your clients.
Invest in your dynamic team.
This doesn’t always mean spending money. While you certainly should have a personal development budget to support employee growth, there are other ways to invest. For example, invest your time. I read somewhere that the most valuable minutes spent in a day are spent with an employee.
Keep the personal connection with them. Just because you are working to be less involved in the small stuff doesn’t mean you become aloof. Don’t show up late, don’t cancel meetings unless absolutely necessary, and be there ready to listen, not simply to talk. Give them the opportunity to give feedback and share their ideas. Have meaningful conversations that empower your team, make them feel comfortable about taking risks and create the opportunity for them to assume more responsibility in areas where they excel. And drop the “Do what I say, not what I do” routine.
Invest in yourself.
About five years ago, a friend and fellow entrepreneur started pushing me to get an executive coach. He kept after me until I finally made the decision to start investigating. It was expensive -- nearly too expensive for me to try, but I did it. This December will mark three years with my current coach and three years of making the best professional investment in myself to date.
We have expanded this coaching to other members of our leadership team as well. Not only has my coach helped me navigate the exciting growth we have experienced, but he continues to help me focus on how to better empower my team while maximizing my time.
Learn to let go.
If I told you all I had mastered this skill, I would be lying. But I am continually trying. I work with other entrepreneurs every day, and we have one thing in common: We care too much! We care about our team, our clients, our company and each of their respective successes. We simply care too much. This passion for our business is a powerful motivator, but it can lead to major issues.
Coming to grips with the fact that no one will care about your company as much as you is not an easy feat, but it is a necessary one. Each of your team members is part of your team for their own reasons first. Work to figure out what motivates them, what makes them tick, and leverage that. If you know how to motivate individual team members to produce their best, letting go will be much easier. They can and will deliver.
My wonderful team members regularly (and patiently) remind me that they’ve “got this.” And they really do.