Nightingale Success is a weekly newsletter offered by Nightingale/Conant. In one issue, Tom Gegax said:
“Too often leaders who lack the time to think strategically don’t use the full potential of their employees. People who think they can do it better if they do it themselves, or feel they might lose control if they delegate, create more problems than they solve.”
A key piece of the puzzle of leading a championship team is to learn to delegate effectively so that more of the detail tasks come off your plate, and the crises don’t occur as often. Then strategic planning can take its rightful place as an important use of your time at the helm of your business since effective delegation frees you up for more important pursuits that can raise profits and prepare the business for sale.
Here is a core delegation skill set with my observations.
1. Completely Transfer Ownership – Be very clear that you have relinquished ownership, that the monkey is on their back not yours any more.
2. Explain Why – Explain to employees why they are being asked to take on the assigned task – it cultivates support, confidence and initiative.
3. Get Their Wheels Turning – You must mentor or coach the delegate to develop an effective action plan, e.g. ask good questions or leading questions.
4. Determine Deadlines – A goal without a deadline is only a dream. Agree to a firm deadline to avoid any task slipping to the bottom of the employee’s priority list.
5. Ask for a ReCap – Always double check, never assume perfect understanding. Listen carefully to what they heard – that’s what they’ll do. You may need to repeat this multiple times as each new project unfolds.
6. Monitor – Do Not Hover – When you delegate you have to let go, so don’t defeat the purpose by micromanaging unless absolutely necessary (e.g. new employee, critical path factors).
7. No Take-Backs – This is hardest for the leader who knows how to do the task in his sleep. The opportunity, when the first signs of trouble appear, is to patiently coach your employee back on track rather than usurping the project yourself.
8. Play to Each Employee’s Strong Suit – Tailor assignments to people’s strengths. Know who is a big-picture thinker and know who is superb with the details.
9. Don’t Duplicate – When you delegate, don’t overlap assigned tasks. If two or more people are involved state clearly, up front, who’s in charge.
10. Distribute Evenly – This takes some forethought, but you will build a stronger championship team if you delegate some challenges to promising less-tested people and not just rely on your star employees.
You can delegate individual tasks or you can delegate responsibility for an entire project.
The more you delegate, the more time you free up for strategic tasks, developing your leadership and visionary skill sets too.
I help clients to set up processes for everything– even if they are the only one to follow the process. By writing them down, you no longer have to reinvent them every time they must be done. And as soon as you can delegate a process, it is in place and spelled out ready to give it away.
For each system, process, procedure you can get out of your head and on paper you will gain more time, not just once but every time that process needs to be repeated. For every system, process and procedure you can standardize and document, you are adding measurable value to your business that will come back to you at the sale.
When and how long to spend on strategic planning depends on the company itself. At a minimum, any company serious about achieving goals, must allocate time for long-term planning, goal setting and review on a consistent annual basis. This project must be sacrosanct.
Especially, if you are already within the 5 year window of your target exit date, there can be no exception, no excuses for not doing strategic planning.
Your annual strategic planning should tie every goal, every system, every budget and hiring decision to your exit criteria and timeline. Following this strategic plan will help you position your company as one that ideal buyers will be eager to scoop up – maybe even before your target date.
But strategic planning is not just an annual event. You must then roll it back into goals, planning and tracking each quarter, each month and each week. At this granular level, your strategic plan will drive every decision, every expense and every task each employee works on thus increasing productivity and value daily.
To ensure your planning is done in a very comprehensive and detailed fashion consider the following guidelines. Implement your strategic planning process at each of these milestones
- In the third quarter for the following fiscal year.
- In preparation for a new major venture, for example, a new department, new product, new market channel.
- Action plans are updated to be sure objectives, responsibilities, time lines and budgets are on course.
The attorneys report that historically,
only 10% of all the deals business owners want to implement, actually get to the closing table and get done.
The list of reasons why they fail is lengthy. It comes down to the owner’s preparation and stamina in mindset and skill set to get the job done.
An implementation is the realization of an application, or execution of a plan, idea, or policy. To implement a plan (e.g., a strategic plan, an exit plan, or a succession plan) is to carry it out, to accomplish all the details of the plan. When you commit to implement a plan or strategy, it’s a commitment to ensure the fulfillment of that plan by specified concrete measures.
A strategic plan and an implementation plan are not the same thing. The strategic plan tells you what to do, why, when and the budget to do it. The implementation plan spells out the details of how, the resources, timeline, requirements, etc. They are two sides of your exit planning to think through.
The key to your successful exit is implementation. Full implementation of your desired exit option, to transition to your reinvention, requires following through on a detailed, well-constructed plan. Your exit plan has many moving parts. You must constantly orchestrate all of them. Internally, you must coordinate your team, successors, experts, vendors, clients, budgets, prices. You must align the company goals, market value and corporate objectives with your personal exit criteria and priorities. Executing your exit plan cannot be delegated or outsourced. You must take charge of every step of this implementation to ensure you get to the closing table on your terms, on your timeline.
The challenge to your successful exit is also implementation. It’s a big load. Often, most of the pieces need to stay confidential and independent of day-to-day operations. Balancing your exit with daily operational priorities can be distracting and exhausting. I believe that implementation is where most business owners buckle under and can’t get the deal done because, from their point of view, there are:
- Too many balls to keep in the air
- So many new once-in-a-lifetime decisions to make
- All the changes to make in the business, in their leadership and in their business model
- So many different experts to bring up to speed – all charging full rates
- All the contacts and negotiations that take longer than anticipated
Moreover, there’s the loneliness and isolation of working through this process which takes years, especially when you try to do it alone. Our clients at This Way Out™ Group LLC appreciate the support of a virtual partner at their side through the whole process.
You probably built your strategic plan when you launched your business. More than likely, you have not looked at it in a long time, never mind used it as a guide for building out your business. Strategy and planning add value to your business.
When you start preparing for your exit, that strategic plan and any newer versions become valuable intellectual property as well as the guiding strategy for your transition out.
Your business strategy will be a key selling feature of the business that will attract ideal buyers. It should articulate the goals, objectives and prospects of your business, and the implementation of your vision.
Your strategic plan outlines the objectives you will achieve, the order, the timeline and the tactics to be used. Your strategic plan becomes the blueprint for your company’s success and your successful exit.
Strategic Planning Benefits
Still not sold on the value of strategic planning in your company?
Some of the purposes and benefits of strategic planning include:
- Clearly defining the mission and purpose of your business
- establishing realistic goals and objectives consistent with that mission
- defining the timeline and schedule for implementation.
- Communicating those goals and objectives to all stakeholders
- prospective buyers
- Ensuring the most effective use of company resources
- Identifying Key Performance Indicators to be used to assess and measure progress
- Preparing and provide a mechanism for change [to be invoked when needed].
- Ensuring maximum efficiency, effectiveness and integration across all departments
- Providing focus and direction for all constituents
- Increasing productivity by instituting processes, procedures, tracking and measuring
- Resulting in improved communication, team cohesiveness and recognition of accomplishments when goals are reached.
- Pro-actively solving potential problems in the company before they occur
Strategy and planning add value to your business from day one. That same strategy and planning add even more value to your business when you want to monetize it to get out.
When your intention is raised to the level of a commitment to accelerate growth, maximize value in the business and make that business buyer ready; at that point, every task, goal and objectives must be tied to those clear specific objectives. It’s essential to make those objectives your priorities to make your business buyer attractive.
To Stay Focused On Your Priorities
Here are 5 simple ways to stay focused but they only work when you make these rules into habits you live by every day.
- Always tie your daily task list to your goals. If your daily tasks are not helping you develop your exit plan and bringing you closer to your transition, they are keeping you from it
- Be sure the first task you tackle each day moves you closer to achieving your biggest goals. Your biggest goals should be what helps you get out when you want to.
- Delegate what does not have to be done by you.
- Focus on what’s important to eliminate crises. Crises take you off your game to address another need on the critical path or on someone else’s priority list.
- Set time limits for every task on your list:
- to ensure you complete every task on your list
- to stay highly productive using your time wisely on every task you take on
There’s a very compatible synergy between priorities and productivity. Cultivate this kind of co-dependence and you’ll get more done.
Demonstrating and documenting productivity improvement efforts directly adds value to your team and adds value to the business itself that your prospective buyer can visibly see in action.
You instinctively know when you are being extremely productive. You get more done. You get more of the right things done. You effortlessly get the most important things done. Isn’t it when you are focused on your highest priorities?
Too often we equate productivity with being ‘busy’, ‘very busy’, ‘too busy’. It is easy to be extremely ‘busy’ reading all the newsletters in your inbox or filing away all the files and reports you’ve used all day. Instead, ask yourself:
“Is this the most valuable activity I should be doing right now?
What’s the most important thing that has to happen today
and has to be done by me?”
Busy-ness is not the same as being productive.
To get more time and achieve your goals, be sure you do two things: increase productivity in the allotted time and always address your highest priorities first.
To Increase Productivity
- Set your daily task list to address your goals first. Commit to the next step and get it done.
- Set aside a time and place to work uninterrupted (no appointments, no calls, no emails, no distractions).
- Tackle the most critical task of the day when you are at your peak for performance; often you will be most productive early in the day. In the context of exit essentials, you will ideally work on your exit plan and all aspects of it every day, first thing.
- Limit the time you expend on reading and answering email, say 30 minutes twice daily – and stick to this rule. Like a diet, you’ll see the difference over time, not overnight.
- Organize your time to group ‘like tasks’ together. For example, it’s more efficient to make all your calls/callbacks at the same time. You’re in control, and with a list of calls to make, you can more easily keep each call short and to the point.
Priorities and productivity are co-dependent objectives when you are trying to get something done. Both require focus, discipline, responsibility and accountability.
To get more time, and get more done in the time you have, you need to increase productivity.
By definition, productivity is a measure of output from a production process, per unit of input or more simply yielding results, benefits or profits. Productivity is distinct from profitability. Profitability is the net difference between revenues and expenses. However, every little improvement to productivity has a direct impact on your profitability.
Until you monetize lost productivity, nothing will change. Take a week to track how you/your team use time. Review and discuss what you find. In discussions with clients, we talk about productivity in terms of the results they need and how to get more done in less time and reduce the cost to do so. You can too, just by being more aware of it.
Here are just three examples of lost productivity:
15% of all paper handled in businesses is lost, according the Delphi Group, a Boston consultancy
30 percent of all employees’ time is spent trying to find lost documents.
Jane M. Von Bergen (Knight Ridder Newspapers), The Boston Globe, 3/21/2006
Executives waste six weeks per year searching for lost documents.
From a survey of 2,600 executives by Esselte, maker of Pendaflex and Dymo, FastCompany Magazine, 8/2004
These statistics and others like them are clear evidence that organizations of all sizes desperately need productivity training to take control and get organized.
Consider what the results would be for your business.
If you were asked about the time you spend on just four activities:
- Email and Internet Use
- Stress and Work/Life Balance
- Time and Multi-tasking
- Paper and Filing
and the dollar cost to your business’ productivity for each of these, what would the answer be? How could you increase your productivity in that area? How could you improve productivity in that area for every employee in every department?
When you look at your productivity and the team you have built around your business, can you see inefficiencies in how things get done? What is it costing you to continue to do things the same way? If you monetize that lost productivity, how would you choose to spend those resources? Getting more done? Saving time? Saving money? Increased profitability? Spending more time with friends and family? Taking that vacation?
For more ideas on how to drastically improve productivity, ask about this free whitepaper.
In isolation, goal achievement, time management and productivity are immense skill sets to master for yourself and inculcate into your team. Business owners tend to get stuck in silos of focusing on only one skill set at a time. Intention, determination and focus are essential traits to achieve your goals, most especially on the road to your exit.
The way to leverage that time, energy, commitment and focus is to integrate your work. Indeed, there’s an alternative to working on your exit goals and getting good at that at the expense of not managing your time or crashing productivity statistics. Integrate all three into systems and processes to eliminate competition.
When you synchronize achieving your exit goals, time management and productivity, here are a few things that can happen:
- Coordinated control of goals, time and priorities
- Easier delegating – assigning and accepting responsibility
- Context and incentives to master time management tools and disciplines, and productivity habits. You will more likely hit your exit milestones on schedule
- Hiring and staffing to achieve your growth projections will be based on time and productivity, not guesswork
- Even as you accelerate growth, you, as the CEO, get more time off
- Fewer detours, dead-ends, delays or do-overs, saving time and money every time and with those processes documented, they can be clearly monetized for your buyers
- Goals get clearer and timelines get tighter
- Time management skill sets gets sharper, allowing you and every team member to be more productive
- Productivity systems and habits have a context that frees up 25% of your time
- The right person is responsible for each task/project, and they are not all you, the CEO.
I believe your ultimate goal achievement lies somewhere beyond the business exit itself, fulfilling your bigger purpose, freed of day-to-day management, living the lifestyle of your dreams with much more time off. Time management is one of those critical exit skill sets to master to get it all done.
When was the last time you asked yourself – what will it take to make your business a success? It takes Values, Vision, and an Environment for Breakthrough Success. It takes that same definition of success to achieve your optimum exit.
What are your core values? What are the core values of your business? Are they aligned? Are they consistent with what you want to achieve when you get out of the business and move on to your reinvention?
Before you can define your vision and the goals that will allow you to fulfill that vision, you and your team must be clear on what you and the business stand for in terms of your core values. Start with what you aspire your business to have for core values and work back to what values you embody and live by in practice.
Let your core values be the foundation for your goals, mission, vision, and the strategic plan for breakthrough success.
It’s easy to say you have a vision for your business. It’s your lifeblood. You know it inside out. Writing it down is the next step. Sharing it widely with your team is imperative too. Even more importantly, your vision for the business must provide a unifying picture so that everyone on the team – regardless of job function – can see exactly where you’re taking the business and the importance of their role in getting there. Therefore, the clearer the concept and the clearer (i.e., short and simple) the message is, the more likely you, and your team, can achieve the outcome you are striving for. Your vision needs to answer three questions. And it must answer those three questions for everyone on the team.
1. What do we do?
2. How do we do it?
3. For whom do we do it?
As Jim Collins proved in his book, From Good to Great, this is not a 30 minute, one meeting exercise. This requires 100% participation. It can’t be a top-down decision. It must be iterative and inclusive.
Andrew Carnegie said:
“You must capture and keep the heart of the original
and supremely able man before his brain can do its best.”
When you understand what is at the core of your team members, you can serve them and allow them to reach their full potential. Value their uniqueness. Your team members are your internal customers. You must treat them at least as well as your external customers. This is the highest level of customer service.
Shape the right work environment and you’ll have loyal team members to lead. That means, you have to create a work environment that respects each person, appreciates them and rewards their effort, and encourages an openness to change. Make it a safe environment, one which encourages trying new ideas. When you unleash personal creativity, each team member has a stake in the outcome.
It’s an environment that promotes growth at all levels. When that environment is part of the corporate culture and value structure that produces accelerated growth, increasing profits and team loyalty, that environment can be monetized. That environment becomes an asset you can monetize and leverage in the valuation of your business.
Combine all three elements, Values, Vision, Environment and you have a leadership formula for inspiring greatness and leading to breakthrough success.
When you decide to sell/scale or pass on your business to a successor, you can’t abdicate and retire on the job. Your continued leadership is essential to achieve the best result for you, your team and the business. Your exit skill set must include leadership. Your leadership, not management, will attract ideal buyers.
Great leadership is the key to success. Great communication is the key to great leadership. Think of any great leader in modern time: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F. Kennedy come to mind immediately. They were powerful leaders because they could inspire people to follow them. It was their ability to articulate their vision that made them successful in achieving their goals.
What will it take to transform you from an operational President to a strategic CEO? What will it take to lead your business to conclude the best possible exit to guarantee your reinvention?
In your organization you must be the leader who inspires the team to great heights. To get them to follow you, be sure they are listening to your values and your vision, and then establish the right environment for them to thrive and grow.
When I mention values, everyone nods their heads as if to say ‘of course, Kerri, that’s obvious’. But, when I check up on this piece, I find the last time they discussed their values – personal and professional– with their team, was often in the interview before their people were even hired.
You must clearly know your personal values and your organization values to lead effectively. For example, do the answers to these questions come readily to mind?
- What do you stand for?
- What is most important to you?
- What would you like your life to demonstrate?
- What is your personal mission in life?
- What do you stand for?
- What are you willing to do to get new business/maximize profits/sell the business?
- What are you not willing to do?
- Do you have a professional mission statement?
Quality leaders don’t change their values over time or to achieve short-term success. Consistent core organizational value systems form the strong foundation for long-term success.
A simple definition is that your values are the rules by which you play the game. A well-defined value system makes all decisions easier and encourages your team to go where you lead.
Emotional health must be taught and modeled. This is a core leadership skill set. For all of us, emotional intelligence encompasses five basic areas of mastery. They are:
- Knowing your feelings and using them to make life decisions you can live with.
- Being able to manage your emotional life without being hijacked by it; not being paralyzed by depression or worry, or swept away by anger.
- Persisting in the face of setbacks and channeling your impulses in order to pursue your goals.
- Empathy reading other people’s emotions without their having to tell you what they are feeling.
- Handling feelings in relationships with skill and harmony – being able to articulate the unspoken pulse of a group, for example.
The scope of these skills means there is indeed room for all of us to learn, grow, and improve. There is a lot to learn here. Learning about emotional intelligence, learning about the tools to develop these skills; that’s only the beginning.
It’s like reading all the books on sailing and small boat sailing. You then have the theory mastered, but you have no hands-on practice. It’s only with practice that we gain mastery of anything. That’s true of our feelings and emotions too! The scope of these skills means there is indeed room for all of us to learn, grow, and improve. Learning about emotional intelligence, that’s only the beginning.
Assessment tools are a great way to learn to identify your emotions. – Energy efficiency tools are invaluable in helping you tap into inner wisdom and resources to manage your emotions and understand what the best choices are when you are making big life decisions.
Persistence can be learned. In fact, providing challenges and hardships to children, to give them an opportunity to develop persistence and stick-to-itiveness, is intrinsic in many cultures. Goal-setting and daily lists are just two tools you can apply immediately.
Developing empathy is powerful in critical business situations like a client sales call; closing the sale of your business; your management style, etc. Using emotional intelligence tools and skills will allow you to pay attention to your instincts instead of second-guessing yourself.
Once you learn to be the manager of your feelings, it becomes an easy habit to apply in any business or personal relationship.
Mastery of all the basics does not occur overnight. But with practice it comes very quickly – just like learning to ride a bicycle. Once you experience how it’s ‘supposed to work’, how it is ‘supposed to feel’, it’s easier and easier to reestablish in a variety of circumstances.
That’s where mastery is achieved. That’s where you and everyone in your business benefit from your mastery.
This skill set is essential and a critical element for you to successfully navigate the transformation of your business into a wealth producing machine with a championship team the buyer will want to hold on to. Your mastery of emotional intelligence sets the bar for your entire team. If you are stressed out by the exit options or due diligence, your team could run. If you are in control, leading the exit process confidently, your team will do anything to ensure the best outcome.