Tag Archives: Delegation

50 Shades of Delegation

62-delegation-pic1-17oct2016After interviewing over 150 founder-led companies, some pretty clear themes have come into focus. One of the top 10 issues you struggle with is the issue of delegation.

The truth is, delegation isn’t a new issue. Countless books, articles, studies, leaders, and professional development gurus have covered the issue over the years.

What you often get is “50 Shades of Delegation.” Everything from delegating or automating a simple task to removing an entire functional area from your brain space. Some have even reached business nirvana by delegating the growth and leadership of their entire business to someone else.

But a new wave of entrepreneurial leaders are starting and growing businesses and putting their own twist on the subject.

The word delegation has its roots in the Latin word, delegatus. The Oxford dictionary traces the meaning to the phrase “to send as a representative.” For many, this meant a hierarchical leader sent someone on a mission for him or her.  In business, this meant the CEO would “delegate” certain responsibilities, tasks, issues, projects, or functional areas and an individual would assume these responsibilities on behalf of the CEO or their boss in their “chain of command.”

But, a shift is occurring. It’s gaining speed. If you are not listening, you’ll miss it. And, it occurred to me while I was interviewing Eric Cope, Co-founder & CEO of Smile Squared, that’s it’s time to call attention to it.

Over the course of 150 interviews, you have taught me something profound…that it’s no longer about delegation of authority…granting permission…or being “sent as a representative” on behalf of you, the CEO. It’s about being a delegate of the mission…the higher purpose…the reason for being…not necessarily the owner.

In some ways this has made it even more challenging to be a Startup CEO and delegate because you get super excited about your mission. Simon Sinek with his book, Start With Why, Blake Mycoskie with TOMS Shoes, Eric Cope with his toothbrush mission, and many others remind us that delegation today is about our team members being delegates of the mission, not the largest equity owner.

This may not seem like a big deal and it may even seem obvious to many of you. But, I think this subtlety reminds us that as the Founder & CEO of a fast growing, scalable startup, our reason for being will be the biggest source of motivation when we ask people on our team to carry the torch on something we just can’t do ourselves…for the mission…for our team…not just on behalf of us as the Founder & CEO.

Therefore, delegation today is more about a shared ownership in a higher purpose, than it is maximizing revenue for the largest equity owner or venture capitalist. Delegation today is about helping the members of our team match their unique strengths to a part of our startup mission that helps to bring that brave new worldly positive impact alive and growing sustainably.

Perhaps, then, delegation discussions might focus more on questions like:

  • Is everyone clear on the more positive impact the company is trying to have on the world and do they know their part in making it happen?
  • What are the strengths of my team members and what does the mission require?
  • Are team members who look to please me, as the CEO, the right fit for a company culture focused on team members working for the mission?
  • What are the behaviors we expect from team members who are delegates of the mission rather than delegates of a boss?
  • Instead of “holding someone accountable” for delegated tasks, what if we asked, “how have you moved the mission forward this month?”

What do you think?

What can you peel off today, that will get you closer to being CEO tomorrow?

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 10.28.24 PMMy colleague recently recommended that I watch the movie, “The Intern.” I must admit that I don’t have much time for movies. But, Amy mentioned that the movie has a plot line that speaks to the challenges of Founders growing into the CEO role. So, naturally I was interested.

It’s a nice movie. Jules, the main character played by Anne Hathaway, founded a fast growing clothing company in an old Brooklyn warehouse. Her husband quit his job to help support her success and raise their daughter. Her older intern played by Robert Dinero, is looking to find meaning and purpose after a successful career and becoming a widower.

Ben (Robert Dinero) serves as a wise mentor during a challenging time in Jules’ life and stage of company growth. She is being pressured by investors to consider hiring a CEO. They seem to question her capabilities to navigate the growth and increased complexities of the company. For Founding CEOs who have investors, this is a familiar dilemma.

While the dilemma to stay or go is an important issue I will more further cover at a later time, the small steps that get you closer to becoming the CEO of your company are well in hand.

In the movie, Jules certainly understood the need for an executive assistant. She had a smart, capable assistant who was eager to help. She also had a team of very talented people who seemed to be great assets and play a big part in the company’s success.

Ben adds a dimension of selfless service and helps Jules with the one thing she really needs…clarity. After watching the movie, I believe she became more clear as she was goaded, influenced, mentored and convinced of peeling away tasks, duties, and responsibilities and generally focusing on higher level issues. She started to trust others to important work, even Ben.

It’s difficult for you to make big decisions like staying as the CEO of the company you founded if you are distracted by small tasks, inconsequential endeavors, and generally preoccupied with busy work that is best suited for others. I guess that’s why Jules’ husband was eager for her to find a CEO to replace her. He wanted her to have more time with their family.

If you have decided to stay on as CEO of the company you founded, it’s sometimes a process of peeling off responsibilities over the course of time. Of course, the speed of this process often depends on the growth of your company, the quality of your hiring, and your willingness to let go.

Some questions to ask yourself

Here are some questions that may help you on your way:

  1. What are those things that provide you less joy and seem arduous?
  2. What big issues, decisions, or planning are you avoiding because you are overwhelmed with things that prevent you from moving the company forward?
  3. Who on your team would benefit from the development opportunity of performing the tasks and managing the projects that you have already mastered?
  4. During the movie there was a messy table of junk that served to cause stress and anxiety to Jules. Are there distracting messy situations or projects that keep pulling you away that others can handle?
  5. Does your team have some suggestions about what they think you should delegate? I’m sure they will have some ideas they would love to share with you. 🙂

Clarity of mind is a one of the most important things you can do to enhance your success as a Founding CEO. Now, close your computer or turn off your phone and take a walk…and use your new found clarity to think big about the future of your company. You’ll be glad you did.

Are you a CEO or a Martyr?

Blured text with focus on MARTYROn a recent podcast episode, I had the pleasure of interviewing Caitlin MacGregor, Co-founder & CEO of Plum. Plum is having a huge impact on the hiring and assessment world.

While Caitlin was a lot of fun to interview and she shared some amazing hiring and leadership insights, it was the below segment of our conversation that also caught my attention.

She said, ”I ended up really sacrificing my personal life, because I was working such long hours and so hard on this business. And, I had just gotten married and I remember my husband saying, ‘this is not what I signed up for, like I never see you.’ It was our second year of business at this point so things are taking off and growing really quickly. And I was at a point where if I got hit by a bus the company would have crumbled because I had all of this knowledge and everything was on my shoulders to fix and to do. And so, on one hand it was really rewarding because I had such a strong sense of self-worth because I was the savior, I could do everything, and they needed me so much. But, I was turning into a martyr. And, martyrs are not good things, at all. I’ve seen people that much later in their careers have kept that martyr mentality and it really is toxic in the long run. And, so I was suffering personally. I was developing a real bad habit of being a martyr.”

Can you relate to Caitlin? I certainly can.

It’s a common trap for many high achieving people, especially Founding CEOs.

  • “They need me.”
  • “Only I can do this.”
  • “I’ll just take care of this.”
  • “I’m the best person to manage this project.”
  • “What would they do without me?”

These are the types of thoughts that often subconsciously flood our mind when we create a company, make ourselves seemingly irreplaceable, and silently believe that only we amongst the billions of people on planet earth are the only ones who can make our company successful.

The truth can be a bit more complex. As Founding CEOs, are we important to the success of the company we founded? Yes, very. Are we irreplaceable? No, not really.

As Caitlin pointed out, the “martyr mentality” is not a good thing. This mindset prevents both you and your company from growing. And, it robs others of their professional growth as well.

The “martyr mentality” places you at the center of the action when you should be leading, guiding, and facilitating your team as they grow the company. That’s what CEOs do. Martyr CEOs wrongly place themselves at the nexus of the company’s operations. They rarely ask for help. They wrongly believe their extreme personal sacrifices will inspire others, save others from additional work, and cement themselves as a leader to be admired.

With the help of an Executive Coach, Caitlin overcame this “martyr mentality.” And so can you.

Signs You Are A CEO Martyr?

So, let’s say you are the Founding CEO of a fast-growing SAAS platform, and you are wondering if you have this “martyr mentality.” What are some of the questions you might ask yourself? Here are a few.

  1. Do I have to know about everything going in my company?
  2. Does my leadership team need me for every decision?
  3. Do I refuse to delegate key activities because I want others to see me working hard and that I am key to the company’s success?
  4. Do I publicly lament and share my personal sacrifices and the challenges I embrace?
  5. Do I quickly assume the responsibilities of others when it looks like they are struggling?
  6. Do I hoard knowledge and information?
  7. Do I eschew accountability partners, roundtable peers, or external advisers that can help me sort through my challenges?
  8. Is my personal life suffering because all I do is work and believe only I can do the work I am doing?
  9. If I were gone tomorrow, would my company be able to carry on without me?
  10. Do I receive more fulfillment from completing company tasks, than rewarding and recognizing others on my team for reaching company milestones?
  11. Do I refuse to ask for help?

As you transition from Founder to CEO, your role as the CEO should become less about you being tied to the day-to-day activities of your company, and more about strategy, communication, talent assessment & development, and ensuring your team has the resources to get the job done.

Do you know someone who is a Martyr Founding CEO?

Are you a Martyr Founding CEO?

What’s the drug of choice for Founding CEOs?

Have you ever met a Founder who wasn’t predisposed to “action orientation?” The Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile (EMP) developed by Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida defines this as “a tendency to show initiative, make decisions quickly, and feel impatient for results.” Ha! Impatient? I’m a Founder CEO and NOTHING ever happens as fast as I want it to (Can you relate?). In fact, I have now interviewed over 50 Founder & CEOs on the “From Founder To CEO” podcast and in interview after interview they talk about the challenges they face when trying to tear themselves away from their drug of choice – fast and fulfilling tasks.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of the “blind spot” answers from my Founder & CEOs on the podcast:

All of the Founding CEOs above are fantastically successful and don’t let their predisposition for “action orientation,” override their good judgment on tasks. Continue reading