management team

Could your business thrive without you? Can you “bottle your soul”? Can you instill in your top team your seemingly unique qualities and values?

“The better people you have in place, the longer you can afford to be away,” I tell my small business clients.

— If you have a good part-time admin assistant, plus good instructions and checklists, you can take a long weekend, knowing that no customer is left hanging.

— If you have a good manager who can oversee the work, plus good systems, you can take a nice vacation without constantly checking in via cell phone.

— If you have a strong #2, who has been carefully groomed, and who has a reliable management team, you can safely be away for an extended period, like a sabbatical or world cruise, or to focus on a major expansion.

But what if you’re going to be gone forever, like Steve Jobs? How can you assure that your company, into which you’ve poured your heart and soul and sweat and tears, will continue to thrive? Very few strong CEOs and visionary leaders do a good job of this.

For this to happen, you’ve got to make sure that someone there (perhaps more than one) can excel at the things that seemingly only you can do. Seems paradoxical, but this is your challenge.

Look at what Steve Jobs has brought to Apple:

— Product visionary—from conception and design to execution.

— Strong attention to detail

— Able to attract a top-quality team, and hold them together despite their strong personalities

— He’s the soul—the creative force—of the company.

For Apple to continue to thrive beyond the products currently in the pipeline, Tim Cook or someone else must manifest all these qualities.

If your company is based upon your vision, your sure perception of opportunities, your attention to quality and detail, and if you wish for it to thrive after you depart, then you must find a way to “bottle your soul” and convey it to your top people so that they internalize it. This is difficult if, like Steve Jobs, you are a strong-willed leader. It may be hard for you to allow others to grow into these qualities, which have been your special domain. It may be tough for you even to hire people capable of replacing you.

At our recent retreat, for my senior business owners, this was a major topic of discussion. I’m going to do a series of posts here on “how to bottle your soul” and instill it in your top team. If this is a live topic for you, please subscribe so you’ll receive them all.

I would also love to hear from you. Your experience with this (positive or negative), or your questions about how to make it happen.

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“I do what it takes, even if I must work 70 or 80 hours a week. Why don’t my managers do the same?” (Question from T on “Ask Mike.”)

mvh answer. It’s hard to find someone willing to work as hard as you are to grow your business. It’s not their baby. But maybe working long hours isn’t the key thing.

For you to expand your business, you must be able to entrust your current business to your top people. Your top managers must buy into your vision, hold to your values. They must understand the heart of your business. They must put their heart and talent into it, and be willing to go to the mat for it. When the stuff hits the fan, they must stay there till the fan gets cleaned up.

Their commitment may not equate to the number of hours they work. What really is the most important to you? Here’s what I think is most important:
— Work 110% when they are there. Be there when needed, especially the crunch times. Set days off and vacations around these.
— Excellence and competence in every action. They keep an eye out for the little details that need to be handled.
— Customer satisfaction is #1. And connecting with customers.
— Pay attention to the numbers and to the hours worked by the staff.

Your managers must exemplify these, and also ensure that their subordinates do so as well.

For this to work:
— You must have the right people in each job.
— They must be trained; you must tell them what you expect, and give them feedback and correction.
— You must have measurable performance standards, and they must be held accountable. You must hone your skills at managing managers.
— Their incentives must reward the most important things you want them to do.

If they don’t measure up, you must be willing to replace them.

However, sometimes you have a strong person who is in the wrong job. Could you redefine their job so they can excel? Assign the parts they don’t excel at to someone else.

But don’t let yourself be held back by their limitations. Insist on having people whose excellence will help you reach for the stars.

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