Source: Forbes.com/ Christian Muntean
Consider These Six Tips
Most leaders want growth. It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurial leaders to describe their plan with a curve: “We’ll grow by 10% year-over-year.” It’s the famous “hockey stick” growth chart. But growth is rarely experienced as a curve. It typically isn’t smooth or incremental. Sure, there may be steady growth for a while, but it’s difficult to sustain. Eventually, the company might hit a wall and no further growth occurs. However, what feels like a wall is often just the bottom of the next growth step — as in stair-steps. Sustained growth comes from the ability to take these steps.
But first, you have to recognize that what got you here won’t get you there. For many leaders, everything they’ve done to this point were things that came naturally. Further growth — the kind that transforms a wall into a step — usually requires significant change. Often this change feels unnatural and uncomfortable. As a result, most companies are stuck at the bottom of a growth step. How do you get unstuck?
Good leadership is vital for organizational success, but even good leadership can be an obstacle. The obstacle is built when a leader makes organizational success dependent on their presence or involvement. As a result, the organization is unable to grow beyond the capacity of that leader. This frequently leads to overwhelm or burnout on the part of the leader, so they scale back their vision to match their sense of capacity.
Why is it so hard to get out of the way? Most leaders either rose into leadership or founded a business by being a good “doer” (providing a good or service). Many struggle to shift from being a “doer” to being a “manager” (maintaining quality and direction). Leaders who have become successful at being managers may later struggle to shift out of day-to-day management and exclusively into “leadership” (setting direction and shaping culture).
As a result, successful leaders often struggle with a few common issues: difficulty trusting others, identity and worth and self-discipline. These three issues must be overcome for leaders to “step up” and take their organizations to the next level. (For owners who hope for a profitable exit, these are the same issues that need to be addressed to convert a low-value or non-salable business into a high-value legacy.) In other words, each of those transitions represent three major growth steps. From the outside looking in, we know those are necessary steps, but for the leaders in question, each step presents its own challenge.
Difficulty Trusting Others
When organizations are struggling to grow, leaders often feel they need to do it themselves — or at least be on-site to make sure the job is done right. They believe they are the only one who can meet with a client. They need to be present for all team meetings. They need to close the sale.
The issue is trust. They are trapped by being unable to let go and rely on their team. Assuming you are an otherwise emotionally healthy leader, trust issues are most often resolved by two things:
1. Cultivate quality employees. Putting in the effort to hire, develop and retain quality employees helps alleviate trust issues. While nobody wants a poor employee, many aren’t sure how to recognize quality. Others end up hiring whoever is easiest to find or cheapest to bring on board. Focus on acquiring the best talent for your company.
2. Establish clear metrics and reporting. Progress, quality and completion — all need clear metrics and reporting practices. When this is in place, leaders no longer need to be onsite to know what is going on.
Identity And Worth
Many leaders will compulsively self-sabotage growth if they feel their identity or significance is being threatened. Growth, and what that might mean in terms of their evolving role, can be confusing to a leader. Many leaders have asked me, “If I’m not needed in the day-to-day, what use am I?” or, “It’s what differentiates us from others — customers can always get me on the phone!” These misguided feelings can be alleviated two ways:
3. Change your question. Stop asking, “What am I needed for?” and instead try “How can I help others provide value?” In doing so, the value of your role will increase while dependence on you decreases.
4. Define who you want to become. Your career is probably part of your identity, but so are your relationships, hobbies, etc. What do you want your life to have been about? Start to make that a larger picture in your mind than your current role.
Most leaders are already disciplined or they wouldn’t be in their role. But being a leader (especially if you are an owner) can mean more liberty to do what you want. But this “do what you want” liberty is both limited and limiting. Paradoxically, structure builds more freedom. Structure allows for greater growth. To create structure, do these things:
5. Clarify roles, responsibilities and expectations. Have detailed job descriptions, policies and processes. Set goals. Clarify metrics. When people have clarity, there is greater efficiency, a higher quality of work and less management oversight needed.
6. Play within the rules. Don’t make yourself an exception to your own rules as established above. Leaders who do end up working against themselves.
By following these six tips, you’ll be building an organization and team that allows you to focus on leading as opposed to managing or doing. The more your leadership is about the big picture — organizational culture and mentoring others — I think you’ll find growth is a natural byproduct.