When you are starting out, often the business is just you. Or perhaps you and one or two deputies. You’re the hub for decision-making, perhaps for technical expertise, for marketing, even bookkeeping. It all goes through you. Even years later, you can still recall the good old startup days when you were the guy or gal that knew it all. It can be tempting to continue to wear that cape proudly as your business grows, but this post is about the reasons why it might be time to take off your superhero cape and put it in the closet.
Think about how you built one-on-one relationships with your first few people – and how they respect you enough that they still come to you when they have questions and concerns. When your primary operational mode is through those one-on-one relationships, though, as the company grows you start to miss opportunity and incur cost:
- Because everyone has to come to you, you become the bottleneck in getting things done.
- The business is growing complex enough that your “I’m the hub” role might be disguising the fact that you don’t always know more than everyone else in the company.
- Your team doesn’t connect the way it could or should for optimal performance, because your leaders are devoting their attention to their connection with YOU rather than their working relationships with one another.
Why did you hire all of these people if you don’t trust them to run your operation?
If you’re still wearing the superhero cape you can’t go on vacation without calling in to the office every day. If you are wearing the superhero cape and you get sick, or if some other element of life bumps into your daily routine, the company suffers. Moreover, when the whole place relies on you, you suppress the value of your business asset. Who would want to buy it (and thereby fund your retirement!) if the business can’t function at full steam without you there?
Triads can help you out of the hub
When you start to do the “capeless” job of building triads (3 people) rather than dyads (two people) for communication, you start to build an operation that depends less upon you. (Remember, – that means longer vacations and bigger sale price when you are ready!) And triads contain a built-in tie-breaker. Jane in marketing can collaborate with Sam in sales and Harold in finance to gather information and solve problems. Gerry in engineering and Marisa in manufacturing can resolve questions about specs and efficiencies with Elaine in purchasing. As these connections grow, the barriers between functional silos start to break down and the triads focus on customers and their needs rather than jockeying for position and positive attention with you.
You need to encourage and nurture these connections. You may need to be the convener for the triads to meet routinely, and at the outset you may need to assign them projects to accomplish. Then as trust builds among them, they start being more proactive about identifying opportunities and threats, and they take action to handle them.