Too many masters

Every owner loves their business. Every good owner loves their people. Every great owner loves their vision. It turns out that if you care deeply for your business, value your people and hold to your vision, you’ll also want to serve as many customers as possible. Ah, the conflicts this many masters can create.

Too much ‘perfection’

The other side of this coin is the tendency for owners to become deeply attached to a certain idea of how they like their business to operate. This desire for ‘perfection’ – knowing only you can do it exactly right – sets owners up for a significant failure. This is only amplified by having all of those masters.

People who build great businesses generally attract people who want to be part of the journey and commonly have an incredible ability to define and express vision. It’s when these factors intersect with the operational engine that cracks start to form. So what do I mean you’re too controlling?

Too much…control

Conflict in owner-led businesses typically comes when realising the most intuitive and insightful employees lack the depth of experience and context the owner has for their own business. As a result, those employees will simply do their best. Let’s be real here – very few people get up with the intention of doing a bad job today. However, unless you’ve taken the time to delegate effectively, then the best you can expect is 60 per cent of the perfection you’d like.

I constantly hear of owners who have done all the right things. They have a board, the papers are acceptable and meetings are well chaired. The management team is quality and a good structure is in place. The team has the right skills and is giving it their best shot. And yet, the owner can’t help themselves. They get into the business and see every minor defect and start to mismanage their response. They probably know full well how they are meant to deal with imperfections – with a quiet word to the right person on the leadership team who will manage a properly delegated solution. Sadly, most controlling owners live by the seagull principle – flying over the top, flapping about, squawking loudly, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake and moving on to the next important thing. This doesn’t create a healthy culture. This creates owners who resent paying ‘too much’ for people who aren’t ‘getting it right’ – and quality team members who don’t feel like they are being allowed to think, manage or lead.

Keys to unlocking excellence

So what do you do? Take a look in the mirror and allow yourself to see that the biggest problem in your business may be you. It’s absolutely critical you care about building a great business, but to do this there are some keys to keep in mind:

  • Continue to hold your vision with great passion
  • Accept that even the best people don’t know what’s going on in your head
  • Diligently support a governance and management structure where you always have someone to talk with, but where you delegate the response
  • Recognise there are usually many ways to get the best possible outcome, which means your way is likely not the only one
  • Surround yourself with people who are better than you in specific areas – they most likely know some of those ‘other ways’ to get great results
  • Give your leaders the freedom to truly manage by encouraging learned outcomes that improve a solution forever
  • Be attentive in asking how something has been dealt with and then remember to praise work well done, even if it’s not 100 per cent
Rod Douglas

My passion is working alongside owners and executive leaders of high-growth businesses to help them make positive change possible. I empower leaders to manage the challenges of succession, progression or crisis – particularly where my expertise in culture, strategy and value will make a real difference.