Great Business Leaders Delegate and Empower

(This is the second in a series of posts on great Business Leaders)

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

– Steve Jobs

Every business leader wants to see their company become a success.

Too frequently business leaders believe they have to micromanage if their companies are going to achieve this success. They try to do everything themselves. If they don’t, the company will fall short. In those instances where they delegate work to someone else, they frequently monitor them closely to make sure they are doing it correctly.

But few such companies become as successful as the leader desired because of the job the leader is doing.

Great Business Leaders Operate Differently

A small business owner leading a team meeting in a conference room.

Very early in their careers, they realize there are various jobs in the company they are not good at. If they had to do these, it would take them far longer than others to do them. They also would not do them as well.

They realize it would be best for them to concentrate on doing things where they can have the greatest impact and to delegate what they are not passionate about or don’t do well to more qualified people.

Although great business leaders delegate work they’re not comfortable doing, they don’t just walk away from it. They have faith in the people they delegate the work to. They check with them to see how things are going and provide them with the support they need to excel.

Visualize This Fictitious Company

It has grown over the last 30 years from a start-up to the leader in its field today. Currently, the founder of this imaginary company is its president.

At the very start, the founder did everything. He:

  • oversaw manufacturing
  •  managed the people
  •  ran the accounting department
  •  did the marketing
  •  made sales
  •  scheduled the delivery of the product
  •  made sure the customers were happy

As the company started to grow, the founder realized he wasn’t good at everything. He had excellent people skills but didn’t care about the finances. He also wasn’t good at overseeing manufacturing.

He realized his involvement with manufacturing was limiting production. That limited sales. His first priority was to hire someone skilled in running manufacturing.  As soon as he found that person, he gave them that responsibility and focused on his remaining responsibilities.

While he did fairly well at keeping track of revenues and expenses, he disliked the day to day activity of paying the bills and following up for payment on the products sold. Here again, he looked for a person skilled at handling the day to day financial matters. As soon as he found them, he delegated that work to them.

While he enjoyed marketing and sales, he realized there were other people who were better at them than he was. When he found the right ones, he delegated the work to them.

And while he excelled at people skills, he knew that if the company was to expand, he could not handle everything. So he created a Human Resources department to handle matters dealing with employees, and a Customer Service department to deal with customers. He hired experts in these fields to run both departments.

Now He Focuses on What He Does Best – His People Skills

He spends part of each week focused on making sure the employees love their work and the company. He meets with them individually to find out how everything is going.  Whenever they tell him about problems, he takes steps to correct those quickly. He encourages them to submit ideas on how the company can improve.

He also spends time each week with customers. He makes sure products exceed customer expectations. He also asks what changes they would like to see and how they can better serve them.

He devotes a portion of his time each week learning more about how he can enhance his people skills. In addition to taking courses and reading books on this, he has a mentor whom he meets with regularly.

Brad Smith – Chairman and CEO of Intuit

Intuit is a company that develops and sells financial software to small businesses, accountants and individuals. Two of its products are QuickBooks and Turbo Tax.

Fortune listed Intuit as #13 on its list of the 100 Best Companies to work for in 2018.  In 2017. Fortune listed it as the 4th most admired company in the computer software industry.

Brad’s story is interesting. Very early in his career, he had various sales, marketing and management positions at PepsiCo, Seven-Up and Advo, Inc. From 1996 to 2003, he was in several different executive positions at ADP. He joined Intuit in February of 2003 and has been chairman and chief executive officer since January 2016.

Brad has no background in accounting or computer software. He relies on others to do all of the work connected with Intuit’s products.

He considers time his most precious resource and follows a 40-30-20-10 split on how he spends his time.

  • 40% is spent running the company. Here he focuses on operating mechanisms and product reviews.
  • 30% is spent on leading Intuit and building the company.
  • 20% is spent on learning from the outside in. He meets with leaders from other companies to find out how they resolve problems and to share ideas on how to improve each other’s businesses.
  • 10% is spent on personal growth and development. He studies ways he can improve himself. He meets with his mentors and looks to see what he can learn from other leaders he admires.

Brad believes one of the keys to running a successful business is to make sure your customers are wowed by your products and services. He personally meets with many to get their feedback.

He also meets with employees to get their ideas on how their products can be improved. He takes steps to make sure they feel special and needed. He also works to remove obstacles that prevent them from doing their work as well as they can.

In 2015, the editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review interviewed Brad. In the interview, Brad gave a detailed overview of his role at Intuit.

Where Are You as a Business Leader Right Now?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I spend the majority of my day doing work I am passionate about?
  • Is there anything I am doing that I am not good at?
  • Do I limit myself from doing great work by focusing on what I consider good work?

Look at how you can delegate those things you don’t enjoy or just aren’t good at. Focus on issues and activities you’re most passionate about and have the skills to perform well. With a lot of hard work – and some luck – success will follow.





About Andrew Clarke

Andrew Clarke is President of Ground Floor Partners. Over the past twenty years he has advised hundreds of small businesses on strategy, marketing, real estate and finance. He is passionate about small business, social and environmental justice, and is a proud member of the American Sustainable Business Council, Food and Water Watch, Green America, Food Consultants Group, and the American Planning Association.

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