Be a great leader by letting your management lead

Some entrepreneurs are brilliant ideas-driven creatives, but this characteristic is rarely matched with the capacity to implement the nuts and bolts of their plans. Others are obsessed with achieving perfection, but that can mean they’re not great at delegating.

These entrepreneurial idiosyncrasies are fantastic for starting a business, but as the business grows it’s essential to bring in people with skill sets to compliment the entrepreneur’s.

The second in command

I’ve had literally hundreds of conversations with Supper Club members over the years who’ve told me how challenging it is to find a great second in command. It might be that they can’t find anyone good enough to do the job, or that their current number two isn’t doing a good enough job.

On the other side, you have managers chomping at the bit to take on more, but who are held back by entrepreneurs who won’t step away and who are hard to manage.

Often both are looking for the same outcome, but don’t know how to get there.

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Common challenges

I’ve chaired forums for senior managers for some years, and have noticed four major challenges they face when dealing with ‘their’ entrepreneurs.

Firstly, communication can often be poor because:

  1. Owners aren’t used to justifying decisions to their team so delegation can come across as dictating actions
  2. They’re working ten steps ahead of everyone else so miss out vital information and assume everyone knows what they mean
  3. They don’t want to spend time explaining everything, they become frustrated by questions, so, unintentionally, they can seem blunt or even rude

Secondly, entrepreneurs often move the goalposts, making it impossible to finish anything.

Thirdly, it’s rare to come across a manager who doesn’t struggle with unrealistic expectations of outcomes and deadlines.

Finally, if the entrepreneur has delegated certain responsibilities, they have a habit of ‘dive bombing’ back into the business, disrupting processes and undermining management.

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Sound familiar?

At this point, perhaps a few entrepreneurs are thinking, ‘maybe I am a little bit like that…?’ and a few managers are thinking, ‘wow, you’ve just described my entrepreneur!’ On the flip side, there are valid frustrations from the entrepreneur’s perspective.

Managers don’t always make the right strategic decisions. Because they’re not entrepreneurs, they don’t always think like entrepreneurs and so may take the path of least resistance rather than thinking creatively to resolve challenges.

As they manage teams directly, they can become protective of under-performers, rather than objectively assess whether they’re right for the business.

But, as the entrepreneur, change starts with you! So, here are three things that can help to transition from ‘Hands On Entrepreneur’ to ‘Great Leader.’

Read more: How leadership has changed because of technology

1. Coach, communicate, and don’t just assume they ‘get it’

If you’re running a business with an established management team, have you communicated your expectations? Or have you left it to them to work it out? Establishing guidelines is an essential first step that’s often forgotten.

If you’ve never done this, even if they’ve been with you for a while, they’re bound to have acquired bad habits. That’s particularly true if they’re used to firefighting your bad habits! For them to step up, you need to make a change by clearly explaining the outcomes you want.

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2. Handing over means you need to change too

Your managers can’t take on responsibility if you refuse to truly step back. Ideally, the entrepreneur should move out of the office or at least not be around on a daily basis.

The entrepreneur should focus on what they’re great at, be it sales, creative or strategy, and delegate the rest. Delegation doesn’t just mean letting your managers do the work, they have to be able to make important decisions without your sign off as well. As long as they align with the values and culture of the business, then leave them to it. You might not ever think they do it as well as you could, but if they’re growing the company without your involvement then that’s a great place to be.

You also have to accept that they will manage you, and they may even say ‘no’ to you from time to time! If you have coached them in how you expect things to be done, you need to let them get on with it.

3. Get outside help

Getting outside involvement can offer some clarity in the process of stepping back, and give you a sense of confidence in your team. We launched a programme last year aimed at helping senior managers manage their entrepreneurs and giving them the time and space to identify how they can have a greater influence on growth.

One of the most important elements is the peer-group aspect. Senior managers can be in a lonely place, and having other business leaders offer critical input and support just helps to hone their business sense, and acts as a sense check for big decisions.

Building an independent management team is probably the single most important element in setting the foundations for future growth. Scaleability – and saleability – relies on a business operating as a well-oiled machine, where each individual understands and owns their role.  

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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