4 ways to relinquish (some) control and help your team thrive
When my wife and I started our company, there wasn’t a job we didn’t do, whether answering the phone or shipping the product. But as the business thrived, we realized we couldn’t do everything on our own. Unfortunately, relinquishing control is one of my greatest challenges.
This is partly due to my love of the business and desire to be involved in every aspect of it. But if I’m completely honest, part of the problem is that it’s hard to trust someone else to love and care for our product and customers as much as I do.
If you hire hard-working, reliable team members who are excited about learning, you have to be confident that they’ll get the job done right, though. For example, our first shipping manager took extra time to make everything look perfect and get our products to customers safe and sound. Her extensive bubble-wrapping might not have been ideal from a productivity standpoint, but it was more important to me that I could trust her to care about our customers as much as I did. What a relief!
Being confident that your team members can do their jobs well — and trusting them to do so — is one of the best things you can do in terms of career and business growth. If you try to do everything yourself, you will burn out and drop the ball — and usually at the worst possible moment.
So how can you abandon micromanagement and maximize your team’s productivity and effectiveness? These four tips will help you get started:
1. Don’t be afraid of mistakes
If a person never makes a mistake, he or she probably isn’t trying new things or reaching outside his or her comfort zone. On the other hand, when someone does screw up, he or she has to own it, learn from it, and move on — and as the leader, you have to be able to do that, too.
If delegating isn’t your strong suit, start by giving away work that won’t harm the business if a mistake is made. This is a great way to let team members grow in their skills while you focus on more important tasks. If and when someone does make a mistake in a lower-impact area, you can work with that person to improve so he or she can eventually take on more integral areas of the business.
When we started our business, we had a college student helping part-time in the warehouse, and she was eager to take on more responsibility. She would come in early, stay late, and do whatever needed to be done. As the company grew, she became a full-time employee and then took over shipping. She later transitioned to sales and then became our national trainer. Over time — because she was given incremental opportunities to take on new challenges — she has become someone who understands our entire business from the ground up.
2. Don’t rush the hiring process
I like everyone I meet. After an interview, I’m ready to hire on the spot. But if you’re going to work on relinquishing control of your business, you have to take care to hire people you can really trust.
Do your homework, and make sure an applicant’s qualifications match the job and that he or she will fit well into your business’s culture. When applicants demonstrate that they will do their best work, be honest about mistakes, and do everything they can to not repeat those mistakes, that’s the time to take the leap and make them a part of your team.
We were once in need of a sales assistant, and the girlfriend of one of our key employees answered the ad. We really liked her but were nervous about hiring her because if it didn't work out, we didn't want that to affect their relationship or our relationship with her boyfriend. We interviewed her multiple times, but, more importantly, we interviewed at least 10 other qualified candidates. But we kept coming back to her. That was almost five years ago, and she and that other employee are married and still working for us.
3. Be kind to customers and vendors
I’ve never lost it with a customer, but I can’t say the same about vendors. When a vendor misses an important delivery, it can ruin my day. But I know I won’t get very far by yelling. It’s better to calmly work to find a solution. If you can’t keep your cool and stay respectful, you will lose clients and vendors and damage your reputation.
In the book “What's the Secret? To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience,” author John DiJulius III writes about some companies that provide legendary service, including the Ritz-Carlton, Nordstrom, and Disney. Anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of great customer service can tell you what a treat it is — and how much that person is looking forward to engaging with that company again. So no matter how frustrated you get, be kind and give both your customers and your vendors the benefit of the doubt in every situation.
4. Figure out what really needs your attention
Don’t operate like a FIFO (first in, first out). Rather, you should prioritize your work, which allows you to do important tasks first and delay tasks that can wait or hand them off to someone else.
Like David Allen wrote in his book “Getting Things Done,” “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.” If you don’t organize your task list and figure out what takes priority — and what actually needs to be done by you specifically — you’ll lose focus on what’s important.
When we started our business, we didn't have a budget for a lot of marketing materials and design, so I taught myself how to use Quark and Adobe Creative Suite. I fumbled through, but as we grew, we realized we needed a full-time graphic designer. I was concerned at first because I liked the reward of designing things, but right away, I realized that the product was a million times better with a trained designer on our team. I also realized that I was wasting my own precious time doing something that someone else can do faster and better.
Ultimately, you must choose between growth and control. Micromanaging your team can hurt the business, lead to burnout, and be a disservice to your employees who are striving to improve and help. But with a little self-awareness and a few good strategies, even the most tightly wound managers can learn to relinquish control and trust their team to succeed.
Jesse Werner is a founder of Whish, a comprehensive skincare brand that's dedicated to the discovery of powerful natural ingredients that enable intelligent choices for your skin. Whish is on a constant quest to create natural products that actually work. All Whish products are made with organic ingredients and are free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, DEA, and TEA.