One of the greatest challenges for any entrepreneur is delegation: giving responsibility for some key part of growing the business to someone else. The analogy is hackneyed, but accurate: we think of our businesses as our children, and no one can take care of our children as well as we can.

The truth is that like our children, as our enterprises grow up, others will take care of them and support them – and they need to learn how to take care of themselves. Thus, one of the key skills for entrepreneurs wishing to grow their enterprises is delegation. Effective delegation builds “bench depth”: the ability for emerging leaders to take on more responsibilities and grow the business faster.

Here are a few of our top tips for effective delegation:

  • Be clear about what is expected. Generally this means specifying the result that is required (what by when). Although this step is obvious, it requires more thought than it is often given. Entrepreneurs often become enamoured with their approach and so communicate not only the result that they what, but the method by which that result should be accomplished. Sometimes the specific method is important, but often it is simply a way to increase the comfort level of the delegator. Give as much flexibility to decide how the task is to be accomplished and the deliverable produced as possible.
  • Don’t confuse accountability with blame. Part of the reason for delegating is building the capability of current and future leaders. Developing new skills requires minimizing the risk associated with trying new things. Accountability does not mean a free ride. It requires thoughtfulness. Consider the possibly apocryphal story of Thomas J. Watson Sr., Chief Executive Officer of IBM who, replying to a sales rep who had offered his resignation after blowing a million-dollar deal said “Why would I accept this when I have just invested one million dollars in your education?
  • When people prove they are accountable, give them more. Recognize the people in your organization who are willing to step up, take risks, and accept new responsibilities. Consider the behaviors you are trying to encourage. For example: do you want to encourage to make safe bets that always work out, but may not grow the business; or do you want to encourage people to operate outside their comfort zone, even if things don’t always work out exactly as planned.
  • Encourage others to delegate. As your enterprise grows, what used to be executive decisions will be made at (potentially) much lower levels of the organization. Growing delegation capability should be a key component of your growth strategy.

Delegation, accountability, and blame are complex subjects and difficult to master. Share your stories,and lessons learned below.

Have you noticed that the way we refer to ourselves in the workplace changes as frequently as any other fashion? In the 1990’s, ambitious professionals referred to themselves as “consultants”. As we moved into the 21st century, “business coach” emerged as the next euphemism. Now a new badge of honor has emerged: “entrepreneur”.

The problem with these terms is that they are all a bit broad brush. The current wave of entrepreneurialism assumes that every entrepreneur wants the same thing. The holy grail of business success has become to create the next big exit. From Google to Snapchat, to be seen as successful as an entrepreneur, you must grow big, grow fast, and exit quickly.

The problem with this thinking is that one size entrepreneurialism doesn’t work. One of the first questions that we ask when we work with new clients is “what kind of entrepreneur are you?” I’ve asked pre-revenue startup entrepreneurs to seasoned executives at multinational organizations and a few common themes have emerged. Most entrepreneurs:

  • have not thought about this question
  • believe in the “one size fits all” model of entrepreneurial success
  • are setting themselves up for failure because:
    • They will not achieve their goals because they do not believe in them
    • They will succeed in creating work that they find personally unsatisfying

Exploring the question has revealed four major kinds of entrepreneurs (and a similar diversity of intrapreneurs):

1. Freelancers want to do the work that they love. They are generally not interested in the complexity of building an enterprise and do well when others take care of the details.

2. Salespeople are accomplished at matching products and services with customers. Some salespeople also have talents in creating products and services, some focus exclusively on sales and leave product and service creation to others.

3. Shopkeepers want to create an enterprise that they can operate on their own or with a small number of partners. They tend to have a build and hold/operate orientation and are less interested in an exit strategy than in ongoing satisfying work. Shopkeepers often create multi-generational businesses, They want to “own the whole grape”.

4. Enterprise builders, often serial entrepreneurs, are looking to create value by developing a concept into a functioning business that can be sold to others to operate. They understand that collecting the resources necessary to create large-scale enterprise may require multiple investors and complex equity sharing agreements. They are growing something bigger that the shopkeepers’ grapes and instead seek to “own a slice of the watermelon.”

What kind of entrepreneur are you? Tell the world in the comments below.

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Maintaining a Work-Life Blend

Is life getting in the way of work?

Thomas K. Miller

Life and work should not be in constant competition for your time. Let me say that again: life and work should not be in constant competition for your time.

The simplicity of this statement is unfortunately lost on most working Americans. The reality of our workforce paints an alternative canvas with themes of overtime, shortened weekends, and missed holidays.

On the surface, this means we’re merely sacrificing a bit of time to get ahead at our jobs, to balance the books of our fledgling business, or to attend school and work part time as the manager of our campus Kinkos. We live under the illusion the current sacrifice will reap future rewards, but what this often translates to is a loss of productivity, efficiency, and personal gratitude.

When the costs are calculated it is abundantly clear that companies are often better served giving their employees the ability to enjoy life. After all, a happy employee is usually a good employee. And good, happy employees almost always equal less costly mistakes, and certainly they lead to less turnover.

It is for this reason that regardless of management style (see article on operational questions) efforts from both employers and employees should point toward a better work life blend. Blending work and leisure mean that the two are separate, but also that they inform one another. What person leaves the office and immediately loses all the time and knowledge they held the second before they left the door? It doesn’t work like that!

We want to know:
What’s your blend like? What does work mean to you? Do you work from home, a small office, a large office? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Next topics
So does deferred gratification result in 1:1, 1:2, or 2:1 style ratios?