From the moment you hire your first employee, your success is no longer measured primarily by your individual ability to achieve extraordinary results, but rather by your ability to create an environment in which others can achieve extraordinary results.
Unfortunately, that’s a lesson that many entrepreneurs learn the hard way. Their natural inclination is to be as involved as possible in every decision: from strategy, to production, to sales, marketing, IT, often down to the color and font on the business cards. The larger a company grows, however, the less sustainable that model becomes.
To be certain, when the company launched they may have needed to make all those decisions because there was no one else to do so. Since a founder's identity is often tightly interwoven with the companies they start, the emotional stakes are high. But waiting for the founder/CEO to weigh in on every decision can create bottlenecks and decrease engagement, as talented employees wonder why their expertise isn’t given more weight.
For those leaders willing to make the shift, it’s useful first to change your mindset: think of it less in terms of losing control and more in terms of gaining knowledge, experience and leadership from others who will help your company grow. Then, pay attention to the following:
The first key is to hire right. Surround yourself with smart people. It’s easier to begin letting go when you’re confident you have a team that’s up to the challenge. Pay attention to fit. You want people who embody the brand and culture you are trying to create, and who will model the behaviors you want embedded in the company as it grows.
Communicate your vision clearly and consistently
You’ve assembled a smart, talented team. Now, make sure they are aligned around a common vision so that their collective force is pulling the organization toward a shared picture of the future.
No one can execute on a vision they can’t remember. Use simple language, keep it brief, then communicate, communicate, communicate. Marketing research tells us it can take between seven and 14 impressions before someone is moved to take action, and that’s just for a one-time sale. To drive alignment over the long-term, use every available opportunity to talk about the vision and ensure it is linked to your company’s actions.
Encourage others to achieve results
This goes beyond simply telling people they have the authority to make decisions, though that alone can work wonders for your engagement. Expecting employees to achieve results is about creating an environment where it is safe to take risks and to learn from mistakes. It’s seeking out and removing obstacles that stand in your team’s way. It’s making sure they have the knowledge and tools they need to get the job done.
It’s more than lip service. It’s showing through your actions that you believe in their ability and will help them succeed.
Focus on the things only you can do
Letting go of control in some areas frees you to focus on other items that can’t, and shouldn’t, be delegated. These include owning and communicating the vision, setting and reassessing the strategy, shaping your company’s culture and looking ahead to the next phases of growth.
Control feels good, but it can only take you so far. To grow your business, you have to let go of some of that control. What will result is you and your team creating something better and bigger than any of you could have created on your own.