I was reading a blog post recently by coach Melanie Benson Strick. In this post, she outlines 10 ways that business owners become “the Bottleneck” and speedbump in their business. They can’t grow because they won’t let go.
This got me thinking about a couple of recent interactions I’ve had with clients and their administrative teams. One of the conversations went like this:
Business Owner: “I can’t get my administrative assistant to get me information to finish project X.”
Admin Assistant: “Well, he won’t let me call the client to get the information I need so he can finish project X.”
To put it simply, the business owner didn’t trust his assistant to call the client to collect the necessary information. The assistant wasn’t confident enough to gently push her boss by saying, “I can help you with this. Please let me call the client.”
In the end it became a standoff.
The client suffered because he wasn’t being well served. The boss suffered because he felt like his assistant was underperforming (or at least not being helpful). And the assistant suffered because she wasn’t being fully utilized and felt like she wasn’t a “trusted” member of the team!
A variety of techniques could solve this issue quickly. Some include letting the business owner continue being the “Bottleneck” that Melanie Benson Strick talks about. Better solutions would include the boss taking time to train the assistant how to call a client and collect information or simply letting the assistant do it and then talk about the results. Either way, the boss would be “empowering” the assistant to a job that she is (probably) perfectly capable of doing. This would free up the business owner to do other work AND the project would get much closer to being completed.
Going forward, consider investing some time and training into your administrative staff. Do some role-playing as customer and business owner. Demonstrate to your assistant how you’d like things done. Ask for feedback. Allow time for questions. Create a script, a step-by-step process manual, or work on the project together the first time. Then next time, allow your assistant the freedom to do it on his or her own. Evaluate the outcome, tweak the process, and viola! You’ve successfully created a process and delegated something.
The long and short of this story: by “empowering” your team with the ability to make some independent decisions and take some independent actions, you are conveying (1) trust and (2) demonstrating accountability and (3) giving them initiative to start, handle and finish projects on their own. This allows them to feel more ownership in your company – that they are part of making things happen, part of the decision making process and thus a valued team member rather than one cog in the wheel. And most importantly, this frees up YOUR time to handle the big parts of your business that you do the best.