If you are someone who has felt compelled to ‘do it all’ because nobody can do things better than you – stop reading. You are either the world’s most undervalued and underpaid at X skill, or you are in denial about your ability to avoid the temptations of micromanagement and delegate effectively. Either way, this post is of no benefit to you. If however you are comfortable enough to stretch your mentoring skills and leadership capability, I’ve collected some tips to help you get started.
Tip #1: Take stock. Really.
You are busy. Too busy to know how busy you really are. If you can’t manage your workload, you will never be able to manage that of anyone else! Stop reading and get back to work. Seriously, it is OK to approach delegating as a science before an art. Making a prioritized list will help you quickly identify activities that suck up your time (more on that in tip #2) and also show you where your greatest ROW (return on work) is. Make sure you account for every billable minute of your week – no matter how you are paid. Being in denial about how much time you spend on email, meetings, etc. will hurt you in the long run.
Tip #2: Take advantage of low-hanging fruit.
Recognizing what and when to delegate projects is arguably one of the most challenging aspects of becoming an effective leader. But managers who create a welcoming environment for new ideas will often find their employees become more empowered and take the initiative.
Tip #3: Share the fun stuff
I was once accused from one of my peers of “getting all the fun stuff”. The cause of her dismay was twofold – I had a manager who empowered me (see Tip #1) to speak up and create my own opportunities, projects. In between those my boss also did something I’ve seen few other managers do: she gave me some of her most favorite projects. As a leader, sharing the work that makes you love your job can instill the same passion and intrinsic motivation to your reports – making their work better, and your team a greater success. Delegating only ‘grunt’ work, however, could prevent your employee from wanting to take on more responsibility and ultimately cause great resentment.
So if you want to be known as the “cool” manager, or the team who somehow gets all the ‘rock stars’, take a few moments out of your busy schedule to reflect on how well you delegate. Feel free to share any additional tips or experiences you’ve had with successful (or failed!) delegation.
Many Bay Area businesses are familiar with the concept of contingency-planning. While we may not have to deal with many a snowday, the regularly shifting landscape (literally!) and general disdain for sitting in traffic have given us the perfect opportunity to create a slew of virtualization solutions for doing business. There are now hundreds of these ‘hosted’, ‘virtual’, ‘cloud’ applications. So I have singled out three that every small business should try out; if not for a rainy (or snowy!) day, then to realize the potential cost-savings:
1. Phone Services – Hosted telecommunications
Many local news stations have begun to deploy Twitter #hashtags to notify tech-friendly students and teachers of school closures – a fine solution – for communities that are 100% ‘plugged-in’. A few school districts however have moved to the head of the class this winter by activating virtual ‘hotlines’ – dedicated telephone numbers that people can call anytime for weather-related updates. Virtual hotlines can be set up in minutes online for $10 or less, allowing schools and offices to keep people informed without having to face the elements. [Inserting shameless plug for my former employer, Halloo, here. :)]
2. Web-based file storage
Not only do services like Dropbox and GoogleDocs let you access your files from anywhere, they include handy smart phone apps to boot! Ignoring my fear of sounding dated, I have to let you know the drawback to these services is you won’t be able to give any sort of ‘dog-ate-my-homework’ or ‘lost-in-the-flood’ excuse.
3. Online bookkeepers
Forget the obvious disaster-planning elements here. All small businesses need a reliable accounting system in order to focus on the more important task of getting and retaining customers. The free services from Rhino Accounting and Kashoo let users track transactions, generate invoices and reconcile statements on the go – but if you’ve already bought into the Intuit brand for your taxes, you may be willing to splurge on the modest fees to use QB Enterprise Solutions.
The bottom line: With the proliferation of hosted apps and web-based business solutions, there’s no reason to subject your business to the risks of loss from the unexpected acts of Mother Nature.
Today I met with a potential client to learn more about his firm and to identify future collaboration opportunities – and somewhere between hearing his sales strategy and learning about the company’s long-term growth plans, I recalled a valuable info source that small business owners often neglect after a while – competition.
If you stay tuned in to their marketing efforts, competitors can readily give you a free SWOT analysis. Imitation is more than sincere flattery. Have they begun mimicking your site design or pricing options? Congratulations! Competitors think you’ve bested their previous efforts.
Perhaps your closest rival has had runaway success in the press with a new product feature or release – that you’ve had all along. They could be marketing better, or worse, have a better-working widget for your top clients. Either explanation is just cause to re-evaluate product marketing policy.
Executive comments articles or industry publications can also offer hints on the overall strategic direction of companies in your competitive landscape. Are they trying to solve the same problem as you? As before? If not, these candid remarks could signal their intentions to leave the space or dig in and compete more fiercely for your customers.
Here are a couple of ways to keep an eye on the competition, without having to enlist outside resources:
- Lost Leads: Most Sales managers are familiar with the following two excuses for Closed/Lost leads – “Bad Product”, and “Bad Pricing”. Granted, these excuses could signal a lack in savvy for closing the deal or inability to persuade through ‘value creation. But when taken with a few grains of salt, these insights can help businesses can stay ahead of competitors’ product and packaging tweaks before a substantial shift in market share occurs.
- Executive Moves and Hiring Trends: Even with the nearly 10% unemployment rate in California, the hiring wars among Silicon Valley’s hottest tech firms wage on. HP vs. Oracle. Googlers have migrated to Facebook…whose bodies have flown to Twitter…and so on. Companies send press releases on executive hires not simply to brag about a new face – but also to influence employee migration among top talent. While it may be obvious that organizational issues drive employees to competitors, it is harder for firms to realize the competitive threats resulting from the loss of top talent to complimentary players in the value net.
If one employee moves to a supplier, he/she could simply be interested in serving a different part of the value chain. If however you lose 3 top engineers to a reseller, that company could be looking to match your capabilities and services – and to sell them direct.
Too often small businesses forget to keep an eye on competitors when trying to scale. By listening to internal sales and employee data and by monitoring rivals’ marketing efforts, these companies can identify threats and opportunities more quickly and be more proactive when making strategic decisions.
Based in San Francisco, CA, but has studied/worked/lived…
…throughout the US: Chicago, IL | Des Moines, IA | Anaheim, CA | New York, NY | Philadelphia, PA | San Francisco, CA
…in South America: Buenos Aires, Argentina
…in Europe: London, UK | Barcelona, Spain
…in Asia Pacific: Sydney, Australia | Singapore | Mumbai, India