Ron owned a $12 million per year manufacturing company making industrial control parts to automate manufacturing processes. 25 years earlier Ron had started his company out of his garage and slowly grew it to the point it is today.
But as Ron and his company become more successful, he began to look beyond the near term to the day when he planned on retiring from the business. He didn’t want to sell the company, instead he wanted to transition – slowly – to owning the business passively.
But for Ron to grow his company and set it up to succeed past his active participation he knew he needed to build a leadership team. This was something for which he didn’t have any experience. This was the point when Ron’s attorney referred Ron to work with my business coaching company Maui Mastermind.
After conducting our initial audit of Ron’s company and sharing the results with him, it became clear that while Ron had gathered a very competent group of team members, he had unintentionally kept them compartmentalized, working on just their one aspect of the business.
Ron understood that in order for his company to thrive without him being the driving force behind growth and the coordinating strategist keeping all the departments focused on the company priorities, he needed to do something different.
Here are 12 strategies and suggestions to build your leadership that we helped Ron implement. Each of these ideas is designed to help you grow, groom, and empower your leadership team to play a bigger role scaling your company.
1. Be selective about who you select to be part of your leadership team.
Your leaders will have such a magnifying power in your company, be intentional about who you select. Start with the people you already have on your team. Next, be honest in your evaluation of their talent and abilities. The people you currently have leading an area of your business may not have the ability or drive to take the next step with you. Accept that. They can still be a great role player for your company.
2. Affirm your leadership team by sharing information, holding high standards, and believing in their ability to deliver results.
Top talent wants to be respected and challenged. Sharing information sends the message you trust them to be competent and integral enough to understand and use the information. Holding high standards and believing in your team’s ability to perform is contagious, and helps you create a results-oriented culture inside your business.
3. Put your big picture vision for the company in writing and share it with your leadership team.
4. Say it again… and again… and again…
You need to regularly reinforce your vision with your team. Take every opportunity to bring it up in meetings, in conversation, and in the normal course of your business. When you see an opportunity to highlight how a recent event or action at the company is in direct alignment with that vision, don’t miss a chance to point it out.
You’ll be surprised with what they come up with. This is a great way to check to see if you’ve been successful in communicating your vision for the company.
5. Ask for their opinions, insights, and suggestions.
Likely you’ve grown used to lead by pressing forward with your ideas and decisions. While that may be “efficient”, it won’t help you develop your leadership team. Instead, ask your leadership team for their perspectives. This can be done one to one, or during leadership team meetings.
6. Ask, don’t tell.
Building on suggestion five, when you leadership team brings you a challenge or a decision to make, resist the temptation to just “solve” the problem or make the decision. Instead ask, “What do you think we should do here?” This is how you develop people.
Over time, don’t accept them bringing you problems or decisions without having thought through their suggested course of action. In the military they call this “completed staff work.” In business, we call this being proactive and a leader.
7. Involve your leadership team in your quarterly strategic planning.
At first they may not have a lot to contribute as the ideas and structure of doing quarterly strategic planning may be new to them. Bust as they get used to the structure, and see the bigger picture of the whole business, they’ll contribute a great deal. Plus, outside of this planning time they’ll be able to use the perspective they’ll have gained to make better and smarter decisions in their own department.
8. Enlist your leadership team’s help in holding your company accountable.
Do you regularly use your company values as a filter through which to make your big decisions?
Do you put your best resources on projects that are geared to move you closer to your most important company goals, or do you fritter them away on putting out your brightest momentary fires?
Do you regularly assess how your company is progressing on its most important goals, using the feedback to improve the business, or do you just react to things as they hit the business?
Give your leadership team a real voice in assessing and holding your company accountable is a powerful way to get their full buy in to the company vision.
9. Re-read suggestion 8 – Make sure you include yourself.
This means you empower your leadership to hold YOU accountable for your behaviors, decisions, and contributions.
The first time any one leadership team member holds you accountable for missing a deadline, or acting inconsistent with the company priorities or values, it’s a test. They’re watching to see two things: How serious are you about building an extraordinary company? And how safe is it for them to hold you to the same standards you’ve asked them to meet?
The only way to ace this test (and in so doing get real buy in from your leadership team) is to accept responsibility if you didn’t meet a standard, learn your lesson, and powerfully move forward and do better next time. No one is perfect. Your leadership team doesn’t expect that from you. But if you want them to be a serious leader who feels ownership, then you’ve got to play by the same rules they do.
10. Clarify your company’s values and make them the filter through which you make all your business’s tough decisions.
Encourage your leadership team to use them the same way, and celebrate when they do. From time to time, ask them how they used the company’s values to make big decisions in the heat of the moment. It’s a great barometer of just how deeply your values have been absorbed into the company.
11. Intentionally seize moments to take an action or make a decision that illustrates the best of how you want your leadership team to behave.
Your company’s culture is built by the accumulation of thousands of small decisions and examples that happen over and over and over. In your business, there are no throwaway moments; your leadership team watches and absorbs everything you do—and then passes this on to the rest of your company.
12. Seize the moment when the stakes are high.
What you do at stressful moments in the business has a magnified impact on your team and on your company culture. Think of stress and the heightened emotions that go with it as a magnifying glass that powerfully enhances the impact—good or bad—of your behavior. Use these moments as the golden opportunities they are.
Whatever you do in these stressful moments will cumulatively impact the tone of how your leadership team will respond to these same circumstances in the future.
Scaling a thriving company requires finding and enlisting key members to “own” parts of your business. More important, it requires you to let go of control so your business can thrive without you.
Rather than have all roads lead back to and through you like a hub in the middle of a wheel, encourage your leadership team to work with each other directly. Grow their capacity to make their own decisions and take the initiative within the company. Remember, a business dependent on its owner—you—for its success becomes a prison that traps you. Plan for your great prison escape now by building your management team. Before long, you’ll have key leaders in each of the five core pillars of your business: sales/marketing, operations, team, finance, and executive leadership.
So what happened with Ron’s company? We’ve been coaching his company and his leadership team for about 8 months now. For the first time ever, Ron started formalizing the company’s goals and created a formal strategic structure to guide the company quarter by quarter.
What’s more, simply by involving his leadership team in this process and giving them a voice in planning, problem solving, and leading the company, Ron’s company is performing better than ever. In fact, they are right on pace to double the company’s operating profit over the coming 36 months.
So get to work building your leadership team; let them shine. You don’t need to be the one who has the best ideas or who gets the credit. Let your team step center stage and start to shift your role to that of support player and stage manager.
If you enjoyed the ideas I shared, then I encourage you to download a free copy of my newest book, Build a Business, Not a Job. Click here for full details and to get your complimentary copy.