One of my favorite things about this profession is that it provides me with the opportunity to sit in the front row and watch business owners turn ideas into successful businesses. One common trait I’ve seen among the owners of our most successful clients is their ability to let go and empower their employees to make decisions. As businesses grow, the sheer volume of decisions that have to be made can become an albatross around an owner’s neck, and distract them from the time they should be spending on the most critical decisions impacting an entity.
If you feel like your business has hit a wall or that your time isn’t well spent, consider taking the following steps:
- First, prioritize issues to determine which decisions really require your input. To help, ask yourself what the worst possible outcome could be if you weren’t involved in a decision. Be honest with yourself, because we almost always overestimate the magnitude of the calamity that we think will occur when we’re not involved.
- Assess the skills and experience of your leadership team to determine whether they have the ability to function independently. When doing this, the benchmark isn’t whether their decisions will be as good as yours, but whether their decisions will help or hurt your ability to achieve your strategic objectives. A good decision may not be the best decision, but it can be refined over time.
- Hire or train to fill gaps in skills or experience. Hiring may seem expensive, but the ROI generated by allowing the owner to focus on more critical issues is usually well worth the investment.
- Establish principles to help your team make better decisions without your input. For instance, while you may be comfortable letting people make decisions on pricing issues impacting small accounts, you may want to set limits on pricing changes for larger customers or projects.
- Don’t recoil or react violently in response to early mistakes. People will make mistakes, but they’ll learn from them. Focus on understanding the cause and refine principles, if necessary.
Taking these steps should create time for you to devote to the most important issues impacting your business, but you’re not done yet. To make the most of that newfound time, consider the following:
- Establish routines, because they eliminate the need to make trivial decisions. This is one of the reasons Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg wear the same clothes every day. Remember that every decision—no matter how small—will have an impact on the quality of your decisions throughout the day.
- Plan the night before. For example, if you don’t want to wear the same thing every day, decide what you’re going to wear the night before. If you typically wait until the morning to decide whether you’re going to exercise, commit the night before.
- Finally, make decisions early in the day. Science tells us that the quality of decisions degrades throughout the day, so reserve your mornings for the most important decisions. If you need to decide on a cross-border M&A strategy, do it early. You can worry about next year’s holiday schedule in the afternoon.
Taking these steps can help optimize your time, improve the quality of your decisions, develop your next generation of leaders, and help you build a strong, scalable business.
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