I wrote this article for Intuit back in 2012, and some information was used to publish this special report: http://dpub.intuit.com/t/29292
Empower your Employees – Your Business will be better, faster, and more there for your customers
“An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.”
Usually, small business owners tend to be micromanagers or control freaks; which means to have complete control of all minutia of the business to ensure all aspects of the business are being curtailed to the owner’s demand. I cannot deny that this actually “works” for most small businesses, but is this efficient? If this in fact actually works, then at what cost?
It’s hard to measure really the negative impact the business owner has on the growth of its business that is stunt by the capacity of a single person. Delegating is one of those “easier said than done” things where for most business owners the idea of being able to focus on business growth rather than trying to fix everything before it breaks; and find yourself in the vicious cycle of constant distrust to empower employees.
Let us analyze the trickle-down effect of not delegating:
I. Micromanager will do it and scrutinize it all
II. The work will be done “right”. However the person judging the work’s righteousness is completely oblivious to the alternative methods and impervious to innovation
III. Fall back into the cycle of complete control and no true visionary progress is achieved
IV. Day ends and tomorrow. Business growth is back at the mercy of a single person’s human capacity to do it all.
The one and only, Steve Jobs, once said:
“The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh. My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay.”
Elizabeth, an attorney in Miami, that has been in practice for over 20 years, and considered to be very successful (from a financial point of view) found herself getting tired. Tired of running her business from using the top-down approach: “I know it all, I have all the answers, therefore; I will work as hard as I can to run the show”. And by all means many people will find the results to be successful, as their financial life has proven to be comfortable and safe.
Now that she’s in her 50s, the energy level is just not there anymore. She started thinking about whether her practice will sustain, as she wants to decrease her usual 80-hour workweek to a normal 40-hour workweek. During her weekend of enlightenment, she ran across Dr. Ken Blanchard’s wise and simple message from his books The One-minute manager and Leadership and the one-minute manager. Now, she sees that the transformation of her firm seems more feasible by applying the theory of “situational leadership”. She thought to herself “I have a junior attorney on staff, 4 paralegals and an office manager”, and through empowerment she felt it was possible to turn her staff that worked for her can now work with her and quickly positioning herself as another staff member with a narrower role giving her a much desired work-life balance.
Her biggest concern was that nobody will ever work as hard as her and she would lose control of the work quality she had for so many years that she had prided herself on. She thought to herself “Is my brand at stake? How will my clients react to this? Could I continue to grow the business without being as overwhelmingly involved as I only know how to?”
She transformed her firm into being employee empowered business by:
- Staff member’s competence and commitment was looked at to determine their performance. Competence defined as a function of knowledge and skills (gained through education, training, and/or experience. Commitment measured as function of confidence (self-assuredness to do the task without direct supervision) and motivation (person’s interest and enthusiasm to perform the task well)
- Used the results from the above named assessment each staff member’s development level was defined. Now, Elizabeth matched her leadership style (Directing, Coaching, Supporting, Delegating)
- After she kicked started a new empowerment system through narrower leadership directives, she saw her staff members gradually develop themselves. All of a sudden, directives were not just passed down from Elizabeth down anymore, their staff members started owning their own tasks and responsibilities before she even had the chance to know they existed.
Source: “Leadership and the One Minute Manager” by Kenneth Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi, and Drea Zigarmi.
Fast forward to 3 years after this revelation, the firm practically ran itself. Granted, Elizabeth was still the head honcho there, her name was still on the front door and she was involved with all transactions… but she had her role, which was to lead and empower, and occasionally perform legal work. Funny, how things turn out, seems like a 5-headed monster was effective after all. She now works 40 hours per week, but, her new goal before she reached 60 is to work 20 hours a week. Not to be 100% anecdotal here, but there were many hardships and 3 years isn’t exactly “fast” by today’s standards, but she does really wish she had done this 10 years earlier. Today, she still worries about having control of the quality of the work and she is still very much involved as the leader of her business, but she is just another tea member doing her part and her employees have the same attitude.
Whom ever invited the phrase: “If you want it done right, then do it yourself” was not living in today’s world, where customers know it all thanks to Google and want everything in real-time at the palm of their hands thanks to smartphones. Competiveness is about 3 things:
- Be faster – Clients want things fast.
- Be better – High quality at great speeds can only be achieve with utter effectiveness.
- Be there – Customer service is the best proven loyalty program.
So what does this have to do with delegating? Well, let’s first establish the the fact the world’s most precious commodity is time; you can’t buy it and there sure is never enough of it. Since you cannot buy time, the only way to acquire more of it is to spend less of it… so we are talking about saving time.
Big business words like “efficiency”, “effectiveness”, and “productivity” are all byproducts of a simple formula: get more done in less time. Business owners typically confuse hard work and high attention to detail as sign of good quality, and more often than not is the surest way to success, but the drawback is the immense cost = time. In some instances, time, can be valued with easy to measure tangibles like cost of salaries, cost of rent, etc… in others the good all non-arithmetical formula of “Time is Money” and “Opportunity Costs” come into play. The great solution is letting go, empower others to do, empower others to solve, and empower others to innovate.
“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
-General George Smith Patton, Jr.
But letting go, can have some consequences, such as: immediate changes on the end result (for better or worse), feeling less in control, and more importantly worrying about the potential decay in quality. The immediate reaction to delegating is: “this does not make me faster, better or more there”, and the lack of control just creates a more worrisome environment that will surely drive you back to the comfort-zone of Micromanagement.
So what is the point of all this?
First, it is important to pinpoint the current state of the business and accept the much needed change and understand the expected barriers or constrains that make most business owners think of delegation only attainable in a parallel universe.
Second, accepting the fact that employees must be empowered, because the will do, then undo, and finally redo it better than the business owner could ever do it… this make take a while, but it will.
Third, reinvesting the newly acquired free time into two things:
1. Create a system that allows for delegation of tasks with continuous monitoring and platform for improvement.
2. Focusing back on the vision of the company, such as planning, strategy, and developing the business relationships that are needed to take the business to the next level.
So what in the world is “a system that allows for delegation of tasks with continuous monitoring and platform for improvement”?
I do not have a single answer for this, it is just an idea. But as a current business owner, accountant, and QuickBooks consultant; I can anecdotally state that the core of that idea is a strong accounting system. Most of my clients that come to me for that much needed aid, the solutions is almost unequivocally to upgrade to QuickBooks Enterprise.
Initially it is hard to fathom that an accounting system upgrade will solve the great challenges of delegating and micromanagement. But it plays out quite simply like this:
- Train and empower more users to get involved in the finances and the operations of the business. With 115 different permission options and restrictions, a business can have people working, speeding up the processes, reducing bottlenecks, and empower to “own” their tasks by having full access to what they need to use, while completely restrict them to other financial data. Collaboration of work will surely enable the business to deliver faster to their clients.
- Monitor accuracy and improve processes by creating custom reports that are continually looked at and management feedback can be provide in real time. Which means management will also have access to the reports even if they are not doing any data entry. QuickBooks Enterprise can accommodate up to 30 users. A business that always monitors and improves quality continuously is ultimately the better among the competitors.
- Take advantage of technology and internet by allowing employees to work from anywhere with QuickBooks Enterprise’s built-in remote access features. Not having to wait for the traffic commute, or solving issues over the weekends with help the business deliver faster and better service. Additionally, maintain control with always-on Audit trail which allows management to see who did what and when.
- Increase the quality of transaction data and reduce data entry errors with QuickBooks Enterprise custom fields with predetermined dropdown options to keep track of non-standard data that becomes crucial for the business to be there for their clients.
All growing businesses have the immediate ability to be faster and better when the entire team is motivated and empowered to be part of the process, and the business owner can still be there without doing it all. Learning how to let go while maintaining control of the quality (but not the tasks), is the fastest way to make more time to focus on growth.