What I learned #2: Trust your people.

The plight of the entrepreneur: How do you trust others to do what you do when you know you do it the best? Many of us still work every day in our businesses. You are the best at it. I know I’m the best at Maize Quest Fun Park – every dang position in the park and on the tractor and on the microphone and at parties and at campfires and at… you get the picture. You might even have been picturing yourself at your farm, out there being the best!That’s nice, but it’s reeeeeealy limiting. If you’re the only one who can do it, you just can’t get very big. Being you doesn’t scale very well. You really have no choice in the matter. You have to trust your people or you have to stay small.

You know you are supposed to delegate, but you’ve been burned! You got burned when that person didn’t follow-up as well as you would have. You got burned when your party hostess wasn’t as energetic as you could have been. You got burned when the pies got burned because you weren’t baking them. It seems like only you know how to get everything just right.

Some people think delegating is terrifying. I think being the only one who can do everything isMORE terrifying. Here’s how I got around it and began to trust my people.

1. Accept that you can’t do everything. I say it out loud. I say it to the employees and to interviewees. I say it to my wife. I say it to the mirror. You need to do the same. You may need to print it out on a label that you put on your computer monitor. “I can’t do everything.” Repetition and constant reminders get you in the mindset to think about how you can get help.

2. Pick the easy things to hand off first. In the previous email, you should have written out a list of things that waste your time. This is a place to start finding tasks to hand off.

Ex. I was calling in the bakery order each week. One week I had too much to do, so I asked Dee if she thought she could call in the order. She said, “Of course!” I told her, I’d help her figure out the quantities then she could take it from there. Job done. I never called in another order all year. Why was I calling it in myself? Only because my mom had always done it.

3. Set your people up for success. Before you hand anything off, set up a system so your people can be successful. The Fun Park gets opened right every day, not because I’m there barking orders, but because we have a simple system of checklists. I can stay in the office working until the first school bus rolls in because I know the gang can follow the list and get it done.

4. Make the big decisions, delegate the details. Recently, we had a number of items to list on eBay to sell. This takes a huge amount of time, so I walked through the process with Eric and he made all the listings, loaded the pictures, found comparison pricing, got everything ready to go.All I had to do was spend 1 minute per item reviewing the listing and click “List Item” to complete the task. 

You cannot do it all, even if you are the best. Get started on the simple 4 step process listed above. See if you can’t hand off even 1-2 tasks per week to your people. They will feel great and you will feel relieved.

Trust your people. They really can do it.

Have a great week,

PS One last thing: Coach, don’t criticize. My rule is 80% – If a staff member can do it 80% as well as I can, I hand it off. If they mess up, I coach them. The tendency is to pounce on your employee the second they fall even minutely short.

You might say things such as, “I knew they couldn’t do it!” or “I knew I’d have to do it!” or “Just get out of the way and I’ll do it!” WRONG.

Instead, use the coaching method of questioning. Say, “Well, that wasn’t quite it. What could you do to get up to standard?” or “How could you do things more quickly next time?” or “What didn’t I tell you that would have helped you…”

Consider each reaction in the framework of “the goal is to never have to do it again”, not “Can I make sure everyone knows I’m the best at everything.”

Good luck, and by the way, this is hard to do. Luckily, it’s totally worth it.

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