You know those times when a wayward parent has let his child steer the shopping cart, and while she narrowly manages not to take out the elderly person in aisle two, you are not so fortunate? Minus one toe later, you’re cursing that parent and the obvious inability to rein in his or her own child. That shopping cart could be a good analogy for your business: running amok in the grocery store of life.
In business, you’ve got to be the parent: carefully steering the cart when needed, but also setting clear expectations for your child. There’s a saying we use at our company: “It’s not that I don’t trust you. It’s that I don’t trust anyone.” You might have learned this lesson the hard way, but you should know that the right people ask for your assistance, and the assistance of others, when making a critical decision in order to minimize risk.
When taking business risks, here are four things to keep in mind so you’re making the smartest choices possible.
Delegation: Your New Best Friend
For many business owners, if you’ve been burned by a recent employee, you may be a little gun-shy about delegating your tasks. You should ask yourself, “Can I train or hire someone else to do this?” If the answer is yes, then you shouldn’t be handling it. Most importantly, when you delegate a task, make sure that you use clear language and follow up with that person you are delegating it to multiple times.
When a factory supervisor needs someone new to assist with quality control, for example, he’ll bring the employee into the workspace and explain what he’s doing as he’s checking products on the conveyor belt. He’ll note exactly what he’s looking for, what he does with defective product, and how the employee can record data to reflect what he’s seeing on the line. The supervisor knows that quality assurance is big for customers and the company; he covers it thoroughly so it can be handled without his future intervention. That’s how you should handle delegation in your office.
Assume: Making an A$$ Out of Me
After you’ve delegated, don’t assume that the person you gave the task to will be able to perform it correctly right off the bat. Make the person send you a report, at a frequency that you’ve chosen, that details the task that was completed and any difficulties he or she may have encountered. If you set your expectations clearly upfront, then you will find that you can delegate just about anything.
Think of it this way: It’s a lot easier to redirect a graphic designer’s initial ideas than it is to gently guide her away from her much-labored-over final product. In the beginning, she’s grateful for your guidance; at the end of the project, she’s wondering why you didn’t jump in sooner. You should be wondering the same thing.
The “Always Busy” Employee
You should look out for an employee who is always “busy.” What does that mean? Have you given him too much to do, or is he never completing the tasks you’ve set out for him? One business owner I know had an office manager who was constantly rushing around the office, talking to people and running errands. He thought the place would fall apart without her and was grateful for her fast-paced work – until his company installed efficiency software that showed her productivity hovered around 35%. It turned out her talking was really chatting, and her “errands” leaned more toward the casual lunch side of things.
If you keep an eye on employees who are always “busy” and really dig into what they are doing, you may find that you can offer them better direction (or, perhaps, you’ll find that you just need to replace them).
Planning: Your Other Best Friend
When you go into any situation, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this, and what are the benefits?” If you go into any new situation with those questions in mind, you will get all of the emotions and fluff out of the way, so you can start planning the details of your next move.
There are obvious risks, but when you take the supermarket approach to your business, you will find yourself as close as you can get to a “safe risk.” Know when to let go of the cart and when to take back the reins. You should know if any of your children are sneaking candy into the basket, or if they’re following the grocery list. Similarly, in business, the best things you can to are: plan out the situation, delegate tasks that you don’t need to handle yourself, and never make assumptions that lead to unnecessarily big business risks.