Thursday, September 15, 2005

Do You Really Want to Do Everything Yourself

By Fred Leeb

As the head of the organization, you have proven the capability to solve whatever problem comes up.  You have risen up through the ranks by making your boss look good, by getting the most out of your teammates and by always looking for new ideas.  On your way up, you learned a lot from others because you recognized they had good ideas of their own and lots of experience for you to draw upon.  You even complained once in a while about how you did all the work while your boss just had to sit back and watch you grow.  In fact, your only wish was for your boss to stay out of your way.

Now that you are in charge, why does everything seem different?
  • Why are you working more hours than any of your employees? 
  • Why must you try to solve everyone’s problems for them? 
  • Why are you the only one to understand the urgency of the situation? 
  • Why are you the only one living up to the commitments you have made?
  • Why must you be everywhere at once? 
  • Why must you rely only on yourself to solve difficult problems?
  • Why is the entire burden of success on your shoulders?

The answer is that you have trained your employees to rely on you.  They are watching you very carefully and are internalizing your actions.  If you don’t care about the team, they won’t care about the team.  If you don’t listen to your advisors, they won’t listen to their supervisors.  If they think that you only want to solve a problem your way, they won’t even try to do it differently and will wait for you to step in and save the day.  Even worse, many employees may actually be behaving counterproductively.  They may be vocally resentful or pulling against each other.  Since you are the leader, nobody but you can change the personality of the organization that you have established.  If you allow this behavior to go unchecked it will result in tremendous costs to your organization and much greater risks in the future. 

In addition, if you are taking on the most difficult parts of your employees’ jobs, you might as well also cut the number of your employees and/or reduce their pay.  If you do that, however, you should expect that your profitability will decline.  You know that if you really could do their jobs yourself you wouldn’t have hired them in the first place. 

Instead, shouldn’t you encourage them to suggest new ideas, take on new commitments, and make their own ideas work so they can then gain the confidence they need to take on even more responsibility?  Won’t your organization be much stronger when everyone is contributing and you are sharing the burden with them rather than keeping it all on your own shoulders?  Your employees are relying on you to help them achieve their greatest potential, not to do their job.

You may be saying, “OK, OK, I know that but it’s much easier said than done.”  That’s exactly right.  That’s why you, as head of the organization, should be asking, “What will be my ‘bang for the buck’ and who should I rely on to help me achieve success?”  You are actually the most important link in the chain for the very reason that you are the head of the organization.  Without your effective leadership, it is almost impossible for your employees to make the organization successful.  In fact, the worst case scenario occurs when the president is the organization’s biggest enemy, he/she doesn’t even realize it, and there is no other catalyst for change.  With your effective leadership, however, your organization can achieve greatness.

But who can you rely on for new ideas and to prevent stagnation?  Fortunately, you already have invested in a circle of professionals—your banker, attorney, accountant and business consultant--who are now ready and able to give you tremendous value at relatively low cost.  This is because they already have worked on your transactions, business issues and financials.  Don’t let this knowledge go to waste.  They already know:

·         The additional perspectives you need to both stimulate change and make prudent decisions
·         The resources you have available and your operating constraints
·         What many other organizations have done to be successful
·         How to avoid the many pitfalls experienced by others
·         The personalities of your leaders and the history of your organization

The best leaders are those constantly looking for good ideas everywhere and learning from others, just like you did when you were going up the ranks. 

The Bottom Line

A well-functioning team almost always beats the individual player.  The team, however, is almost totally dependent on its leader.  The best leaders stay the best by utilizing their own team of professionals, consisting of their banker, attorney, accountant and business consultant, as tools to help them be successful.  Often, these professionals can be used very effectively at relatively low cost because they already know about the unique aspects of your business.  Their knowledge is from working through past transactions, accounting reviews and business analyses.  Your organization is depending on you to utilize these valuable assets (that you already have paid for) to make the team successful.   The return will be tremendous.

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