To be a disruptive force in an existing market you have to be nimble, quick, and lean. One of your primary advantages over the existing competition is your agility. The behemoths in your space have lots of employees, complex organization charts, and they hold endless meetings to make simple decisions.
You and your team are small. You are able to quickly respond to customer’s feedback and expectations. When a problem arises, you don’t have to call a review committee. You simply analyze the problem, formulate a solution, and execute.
Don’t Loose Your Competitive Advantage
One of the worst things you can do as an entrepreneur, CEO of a startup, or a new product team leader, is to hold tight onto decision making. You will be tempted to think you are the secrete sauce that makes the whole thing work. That means you have to be the one to make all of the decisions for the team.
So you will create lots of meetings, approval processes, and reporting structures. Your team will be bogged down by having to flow all decisions through you. This will create a bottle neck in your work flow and take away your competitive advantage. Your team will become slow, just like the competition.
Empower Your Team to Make Decisions
I always tell my team, “I will never say no to a good idea, so don’t worry about asking.” What I am telling them is that they have the freedom to act on their good ideas. Which they do all the time. From project managers immediately taking care of frustrated customers, to field technicians staying onsite longer than planned so they can do their work safely. I constantly look to give my team the ability to make decisions quickly and not get me involved. This helps us to stay agile.
I can do this because I have hired and trained employees that I trust. Trust is the foundation for empowering your team. If you don’t trust your team to make the right decisions, you will never be able to grow your business. So invest heavily into your recruiting and training efforts. Create systems that help your team easily make the right decision quickly and easily.
Sometimes a member of your team will make the wrong decision. How you handle that isolated event is critical because the entire team will be watching. If you fly off the handle and berate your employee publically, your team will lose all confidence in their ability to make decisions. Each time they are faced with a difficult decision they will either come to you (slowing down the work flow) or defer the choice to someone else. Either way, your organization will lose its agility.
Instead, use the poor choice as a coaching opportunity. Be transparent and honest. Tell your employee about a time you made a mistake. Talk about what the consequences were and what you did to correct the situation. Let them know that failure is part of the game. What matters is that we learn from our mistakes and work to not repeat them.
So my challenge to you is to reexamine your organization with a critical eye. Look for opportunities to create trust with your team and remove barriers that are hindering quick decisions. By doing so you will likely create a competitive advantage for your team.
Photo credit: sramses177 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND