Why do you build a team in your business?
To increase the impact the business can make together? To focus into the work that you should be doing? To move closer towards the vision you’ve set? To have more time to spend on other things you love without worrying that the business would fall apart?
If these reasons resonate with you, and you’re still working 70-80 hours a week, you need to ask yourself – is your team working the way you want it to?
Often, as a business mentor in London, I come across leaders who have this exact predicament, and it is usually one of the main things we work on together. Often the biggest constraint I find is that the business owner is the ‘Superman/ Superwoman’ in the business. They are ready to fly in to solve every problem!
The key giveaway is often: you are answering too many of your team’s questions.
How to get your team to think for themselves
Before you rush to close your office door and refuse to speak to anyone in your team, let me be clear. There are definitely questions that your team should be asking you. However, there are also questions they are asking you because they are trying to absolve themselves of responsibility from making a decision (or do not realise they are allowed to make that decision).
And that’s where the fix needs to happen.
Team management is one of the biggest areas business coaches and business consultants in London work on as this is one of the trickiest areas for business leaders to get right.
There are simple 3 actions that I advise my business coaching clients to do in order to move their team towards independence:
1. Get the team used to coming up with their own answers
Sometimes, employees can get used to having answers handed to them on a plate. It is not that they do not know the answer, but rather that they do not realise they should be coming up with it themselves. At the first moment of uncertainty, their instinct is to ask you for the answer.
Every time someone on your team asks you a question, you need to be able to identify whether it is an actual request for information that you have and they do not have, or whether they simply do not want to be (or do not know they can be) responsible for the outcome.
If you think that it is the latter, then you shouldn’t be giving them the answer. Instead, bat the question back to them – ask them something like, “What do you think you should do?” This gently forces them to make the decision for themselves in front of you.
By taking this approach (and sticking to it), your team will soon understand the areas where they should be taking their own initiative, and where they should be coming to you for help. Eventually, they will rule out the option of coming to you when they don’t need to because they already know they are going to be asked to make the decision themselves anyway.
Without creating this habit, you may find yourself constantly fielding questions instead of actually getting work done. Rather than saving you time, your team would then be causing you more work and stress than if you just handled the work yourself. So what would be the point in having the team, right?
2. Instil a culture of ‘advice’ rather than ‘permission’
Of course, your employees might only come to you for decision-making purposes because they think they have to get permission. This is an extremely common situation, especially with new business leaders.
How to overcome this is to make it clear to your team that they are allowed to make decisions without asking you, if they feel they have adequate information available to do so, or if it is not in an area that you have explicitly told them they need to obtain permission for (something like spending the budget, for example).
You could suggest that, if they do need advice, they first turn to their colleagues, as they might be able to provide all the guidance and information needed to make a decision.
While it is important that your employees feel they can come to you for your input on big decisions, they should feel confident making smaller, less critical decisions. That means that when there are critical decisions to be made, you can make those decisively without it being lost in a flood of other decisions that you didn’t really have to make.
3. Make yourself unavailable from time to time
You might be viewed by your team as a sort of safety net that is there to answer their questions or to reaffirm the answer they already know is the right one. If you take this safety net away, they will have no choice but to think for themselves, and take actions without consulting you every time.
As such, it may be beneficial to make it so that your team is unable to contact you every so often so that your employees get used to keeping the business running without you there.
I have mentioned before how being a ‘got a minute’ boss could be massively impacting your productivity. So although you might think it as friendly and encouraging to say ‘my door is always open’, it can actually be more beneficial for both you and your team to keep it closed occasionally.
Once you master these three ways of getting your team to stand on their own feet, there will be a number of benefits. Besides the obvious freeing of your time and reduction of your stress levels, you will also find that you have more headspace to spend on strategising and future planning – meaning you can take your business further and grow it to the next level that you desire.
When you have a business that remains a profitable enterprise without your constant intervention, then you have built a business that is an asset and not just a long and tiring job you’ve created for yourself.