The counter-intuitive secret to managing my team

by Oct 24, 2019Business

Being a solopreneur sucks.

I’m not throwing shade at any solopreneurs out there, and there are many who thrive in that type of business model. I know a lot of very successful solopreneurs, and for years I thought I would be one of them.

But then I realised one simple truth:

Empires aren’t built by one person.

It takes an army of people dedicated to serving their leader and the greater purpose to give birth to an empire.

You can’t do that alone. As awesome as you may be, you’re not an army.

•••

When you’re the only one in your business, you’re doing all the things.

Finding clients. Serving clients. Handling money. Posting on social media.

And that shit gets old fast.

More importantly, shit breaks.

You’re the bottleneck.

You can’t get sick.

You can’t take time off.

And your revenue is capped because it is forever tied to the time and effort you put into your business.

Now, going solo is doable if you’re a digital product creator. It’s actually quite simple to grow a digital product business by yourself if you have a broad technical skillset.

But a service business?

It’s a grind.

The constant hustle can be soul sucking.

Without soul, you can’t build an empire.

I believe in my heart of hearts if a service provider wants to escape the hustle, they absolutely must embrace the agency model.

To do that — to start an agency — you must do a few key things:

  1. You must productise your services.
  2. You must have perfectly dialed in processes and systems.
  3. And you must, must, must be able to manage people.

•••

I’ve got a secret for you…

At any given moment I don’t have the faintest fucking idea what anybody on my team is doing. 

Not a clue.

I know what their general responsibilities are.

But what they’re doing from day-to-day?

I haven’t got the foggiest.

I don’t do weekly check-ins.

I don’t do team meetings.

I don’t email them to find out what their priorities are, or what’s on their plate.

And you know what?

In the 20 years I’ve been in business, I’ve never once had a team member flake out on me. Not. Once.

You may be reading this going, “how is that possible?”

Here’s how:

  1. I give people areas of the business to be responsible for.
  2. We negotiate turnaround times at the beginning of the relationship, and I never bring it up again.
  3. I give them autonomy to do the work in the best way they see fit; in the way that works for them.
  4. I leave them alone to do the work.
  5. I trust that it’ll get done.

That’s it.

That’s all of it.

I don’t give people short turnaround times.

I don’t micromanage.

I don’t ask for updates.

And I’ve never been disappointed.

Sure, sometimes projects fall behind. If a client changes their mind 3 times, or we don’t have everything we need to execute the project, or if someone gets sick, then we have to adjust our deadlines, but everybody knows to update me as soon as they think there’s going to be a delay.

•••

The natural inclination of all new bosses is to be in-the-know at all times. And you may be wondering how the hell my method works.

My hands-off management style works for a few reasons:

1. I always hire professionals.

I hire people who are awesome at what they do. I hire people who can do their job better than I — even with all of my experience — could do their job. I never, ever presume to tell a pro how to do their job.

And while this sound obvious, it’s not. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve had a client rip apart a strategic website design because they didn’t understand it. Because I’ve been in that position, I know what it’s like, and I won’t do that to my staff.

2. I don’t treat my people like children.

Even children don’t like being treated like children, so why the hell would a self-respecting adult tolerate it?

People don’t like being told what to do; they want to be asked what to do. They want to know you trust them, and respect them. And a pro wants to be empowered to do the work that they were hired to do.

My grandpa likes to say if you want people to do something for you, you have to ask them the right way.

And I completely agree with him.

Be polite, and phrase it like a request. You’ll be amazed at how far that gets you.

3. I’m not their boss.

I’m the boss of my business. I’m a badass motherfucking boss in my industry. But I’m not the boss of people in my business.

I’m the leader of the company. I’m here to lead the company to greatness. I’m here to make a difference, and make money, and ain’t none of that gonna happen if I’m focused on micromanaging my people.

I do not have the time, energy, fortitude, or interest in bossing people around. I didn’t do it when I was managing a staff of 30 people at a coffee shop, and I won’t do it now.

Perhaps this is because I’m a libertarian. My core values are autonomy, and personal freedom. When I boss people around, I feel hypocritical.

But it’s also partly because from experience I know that being a bossy bitch isn’t sustainable in the long run.

When you boss people around you create resentment. You create frustration. Employee morale drops. Customer service suffers. Nobody is happy. Not you. Not your team. Not your customers.

And you cannot sustain a business like that.

4. I am all about the big picture.

I’m uniquely gifted with the ability to simultaneously see the 5 year goal, and what needs to happen today to make that a reality.

But here’s the thing:

How the day-to-day shit is executed doesn’t fucking matter. What matters is the action. What matters is the momentum. What matters is getting one step closer to the big picture.

On any given day, there are 10 different ways we can take action to get to the big vision.

As the leader of my company, it’s my responsibility — my obligation, my imperative — to hold the vision, and sit back, and let my people do what they do best.

My team members are responsible for managing the details for their specific areas, and when we work together as a cohesive unit, the entire company moves towards greatness.

I am responsible for making sure everybody is empowered to move their specific area toward greatness. I am responsible for moving the company cohesively towards greatness. I am not responsible for managing the details that get us there.

What’s your management style? I would love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments.

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