Why Small Business Teams Should Be Self-Directed

By Maria Forbes
October 27, 2021

Have you ever admitted? “I’m so busy working in the business, I don’t have time to work on the business!” “I can’t even go on vacation without having to deal with office matters every day.” “If I could just get the right people, I could double revenues.” “I’m just not having fun anymore!”

It’s the “mission and vision” thing.  To get where you wish to go, to meet your goals and objectives, to grow beyond current challenges, you need a team…the right team in the right roles, working in partnership to achieve a shared mission and vision. Owners and partners who are bogged down in the details of running their business often cannot maintain the time and energy momentum that allows them to stay in their desired role as a visionary and energetic leader. If you’re too busy working in your business, and not really working on your business, constantly dealing with details and minutia, you feel it!  You lose energy and enthusiasm lags.

You know you need to stop making all of the decisions.
Owners complain that they don’t have a team that can help them grow.  Business growth remains on the shoulders of the owner. Some employees may be mere job holders, not truly engaged in their work and mission accomplishment. If you have a support staff that depends largely on you for direction and action, what you need is a restart as to how your people can make the right contributions.  You may think you have the wrong people. But it’s most likely a problem of untapped talent and unshared goals that keeps you out of your sweet spot as a strategically-focused leader.

Some dynamic combination of unique ability, passion, and purpose prompted you to start your business and build it to where it is today.   Now with more employees and growing pressures for decision making, you’re bumping up against the proverbial Ceiling of Complexity.  Quite simply, you’re involved in too much.  Your goal should be to return to your core competency, doing what you truly love 90% to 95% of the time, and outsource most everything else to key team members.

Think about your people as a self-directed team, a group of decision-makers. Based on articulated goals and objectives, what decisions are they free to make today?  What decisions should they begin to make as true business contributors?  How do you increase employee engagement and develop leaders and innovators in their areas of responsibility so as to accelerate the value of your business?

Every successful tennis star has a coach.  Most American football teams have more than one coach. In addition to the head coach, the typical NFL team averages fifteen assistant coaches to cover offensive and defensive positions; coaches to supervise key players with specific roles such as kickers, punters, linebackers, defensive backs, quarterback; a strength coach who oversees weight training and conditioning for all players.  You don’t need fifteen coaches, but you may benefit from a human capital coach, an overall “strength coach,” to help you as head coach to “fire up your team.”  A people partner to help frame key questions regarding your team, make sure current team members are in the right role, create incentives for progress and growth on the part of key players, and see to it that new hires fit your desired role and strategic game plan.

While you as head coach revel in successes, you also bear the brunt of failures, financially, mentally, and health-wise.  Think about every role in your company and explore the question, “Do I have a staff or a team?”

Self-directed teams embody proactive leadership.  Consider the people needed to produce critical outcomes. If you view employees as job holders, you’re not cultivating a self-directed workforce. The self-directed team enjoys defined decision-making ability that empowers a team’s best collaborations and outcomes.  The approach moves the team agenda from supporting an owner who requires approvals that take longer to get and suck up too much of the owner’s time and attention, to something more dynamic and reliable. The self-directed team achieves growth alongside of you, and enables you to fulfill your desire to do less in your business, freeing up time and creative energy so you can focus more on building your business.

In order to break through the Ceiling of Complexity and take your business to the next level, think about expanding leadership and decision-making responsibility.  The self-directed team strategy develops future leaders and “bench strength,” increasing transferable value so that when you move to monetize your business asset, most likely the largest item in your net worth statement, your long-term financial independence and retirement expectations will be met.

In our next blog, we will discuss further the dynamics of energized and effective self-directed leaders and teams and how to get there. If you really want to go on vacation for two, three, or even, four weeks, and not have your cell phone blowing up with business problems, rest easy.

There is a way!

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