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12 Tips for Founders Who Hate to Delegate

As you grow, stop micromanaging and hire managers so you can focus on senior-level people and concerns.
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Once your startup actually starts to grow, founders have to step away from day-to-day management. But knowing when (and how) to stop micromanaging is a tall order for some startup types. We asked a panel of 12 successful entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) for advice on letting go of the reins. Here's what they had to say.

1: Manage per the 80 percent rule.

When a direct report can do a task 80 percent as well as you can, you need to let him do it on his own. Occasional advice to bridge the gap on a review basis is fine, but the overhead isn't worth the 20 percent delta. Take every opportunity to get out of the weeds and focus on the big picture, even if that means letting them fail so they can learn the last 20 percent. -Trevor SumnerLocalVox

2: Manage while the leader focuses on senior management.

Normally the leader is involved in managing most people who come on board. Over time, the trick is having a layer of senior management who oversees those people while the leader focuses on managing senior management. However, don't ever think you can divorce yourself from management. That's a recipe for failure. -Raoul DavisAscendant Group

3: Stop managing as soon as possible.

Managers manage, leaders lead. Great leaders hire amazing people and then get out of their way. Your job is to create a vision and then remove obstacles and barriers that keep your team from doing amazing work. You work for them and not the other way around. -Clay HebertSpindows

4: Manage, then step away.

It's hard to give up control, but not only can people handle things on their own, they might even do a better job! Train your employees, then go on a vacation. When you return, see if the business survived. Were people okay while you were gone? Sometimes we need to get away to prove that people can do it on their own. -Vanessa Van EdwardsScience of People

5: Manage only those who need it.

If you're having to micromanage employees at an early-stage startup, then you've made the wrong hires. Early-stage employees should not want to be managed. If they demonstrate a need for close management, then you're wasting time and money. Both sides will benefit from a separation! -Ryan BuckleyScripted, Inc.

6: Back off when you see decision-making happening.

It's important to mentor your employees through situations in which your core values can be exemplified. Watching how you make decisions based on those values prepares employees for future success. When you see them starting to make decisions based on those core values, it's time to back off. If you do so before then, you'll dilute your values, which will threaten your culture. -Corey BlakeRound Table Companies

7: Manage enough to stay visible.

Take a step back and look at what you do on a daily basis. If you find yourself working mostly on tasks that maintain your business, then you're working in your business--not on it. That's the time to hire people to manage your team and for you to focus on the strategic vision of your company. The tricky part is finding the balance of empowering your managers yet remaining visible and involved. -Chris HunterPhusion Projects

8: Manage only if you excel at it.

Not all entrepreneurs are great managers. If you realize you aren't doing a great job managing your team, then consider bringing in a professional manager. The process of bringing people together is far different than managing an organization at scale. -Chuck CohnVarsity Tutors

9: Manage carefully in periods of fast growth.

When a company reaches a certain level of success and growth, the entrepreneur has to focus on maintaining that pace and directing the business toward the next step. This includes preparing all aspects of the business internally to manage the growth and networking externally to propel further growth. Good management will take stress off the entrepreneur's shoulders. -Dave SmithTekScape

10: Manage other managers.

Most people can't directly manage more than six people effectively. As the leader, you should be managing leaders of departments or functions instead of meddling in people's day-to-day work. Hire people who are better than you are at leading those functions, including managing their own teams, and get out of their way. -Mary Ellen SlayterReputation Capital

11: Add management if you're focusing on the small stuff.

When minute employee concerns impact your ability to grow the business, it's time for a manager. The one thing a founder/owner can do better that others is represent the founding interest in the company when meeting influential clients, colleagues, and competitors. When that unique role is impacted negatively, hire a manager to allow you to refocus. -Brennan WhiteWatchtower

12: Manage until employees prove themselves.

Often you can work yourself out on a per-employee basis. If someone has a big win and proves he or she doesn't need to be micromanaged, give the person more autonomy. The better your workers understand that, the more they step up and the more freedom they get. And then it will be easier to hand over the reigns. -Sean OgleLocation 180, LLC

 

IMAGE: Jetta Productions/Getty
Last updated: Nov 18, 2013




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