Strategic Delegation

ceo delegationWhat Talent Do You Need on Your Team?

There is a big difference between being the conductor and being first violin in the orchestra. One is about accomplishing a group goal and one is about accomplishing a personal goal. The conductor of the orchestra is a leader; the first violin is the best at a specific skill. Being the leader is not about playing all the instruments; rather it’s about assigning the parts and making sure they sound right together. It’s about seeing the big picture and making the music happen.

Great leaders play to their strengths and hire to balance their weaknesses for the overall good of the company. They recognize where they bring value to the company, and they work from within that area of capability while bringing in others who have the strengths and talents they lack. Just as importantly, they also mentor others who share their strengths so that, one day, one of those people can step up to the CEO role.

The first step you need to take in determining what your role will be and what roles you need to hire for is to determine what areas of skill your business needs to fulfill your vision. Depending on the nature of your business, you might need skills in some or all of the following areas:

  • Finance
  • Strategy
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Engineering
  • Operations
  • IT
  • HR
  • Design

There are many more areas of strength, of course, but it’s important first to identify which are yours and not pretend you can do it all. Once you’ve identified what you do well, you can identify or bring on others who can augment what you do best. In a small company, you will likely wear many hats to start with, but the sooner you can grow the talent around you, the better off your company will be. Keeping you in your area of strength while leading the organization will be enough of a challenge without having to wear all the hats. The most successful CEOs decide which of the many hats in the business they’re going to wear, then they give the others away quickly and don’t put them back on. The fewer hats you wear, the more successful you’ll be. This is just delegating, right? But the key here is not just to hand out jobs. Hand them out intentionally. Figure out what you can do better than anyone else, and delegate the rest to people who can do it better than you. Then coach and manage those people so they excel.

In addition to the very practical reason that you really can’t do it all, there are important psychological reasons to delegate wisely. Remember, being a great leader is about inspiring others. What kind of message does it send your employees when their boss does everything? Very simply, it tells them that they’re incompetent or even untrustworthy, and that does not tap into their deepest human need to be valued. The CEOs who believe they can do everything better and faster than their employees will experience high turnover (and, quite frankly, they’ll be lonely and tired). Why would anyone want to work for someone who always makes them feel inferior?

Here’s another way to look at this: only do what only you can do. Wisely delegate the rest of it so you can focus on the company as a whole. The sooner you realize what it is only you can do, the sooner you can put together a great team to work with.

Delegating Wisely

Now that you’ve examined your own leadership role, I hope you’re excited about delegating wisely. Later in this chapter, I’ll talk in depth about how to structure and choose your executive team, but let’s set some basic guidelines now so the system you put in place actually supports your role as leader. In a larger company (50 or more employees) you’ll want to have three to five direct reports who take care of those areas of responsibility you’ve identified as being outside your most valuable skill set. Four or five reports is ideal. Too few reports will leave you still wearing too many hats. Too many won’t leave you enough time to coach each of them while still providing strategic direction for the company. If your company is smaller (only a handful of employees), you’ll need to wear more hats for a while. Prioritize those roles in terms of where your real value lies and use that to dictate whom you bring in as you are ready to expand. Hire to delegate those roles you are weakest at first.

One CEO I worked with had fourteen direct reports. This was not her original intent, but the company grew faster than expected and the structure wasn’t in place to implement deeper levels of management. Needless to say, everyone was unhappy and frazzled with the situation. We immediately identified the four roles needed to manage the company, and then worked to put those four people in place to report to the CEO. The company is now doing much better and employee satisfaction is at an all-time high.

Excerpted from my book, “Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle: The Ten Pieces Every Business Needs to Succeed.” Available here on Amazon.