10 steps to master the leadership paradox

When you make the transition to having employees or growing your staff in your business, you may find you’re working harder than ever and yet the results are not as good as you expected. Your energy and time become consumed by doing both your work and your staff’s work — and it’s frustrating.

If this is what you’re experiencing, you’re bumping up against the leadership paradox. Successful staff management requires leadership. Yet the paradox is you improve as a leader if you spend less time micromanaging and “helping” your staff.

That’s why one of the most important career decisions I made was to treat my business like a business and let go and lead. As a result, I became a leader and not just the owner. Here are 10 steps I took to accomplish this:
1. Hire competent, motivated and empowered people — they will want to do a good job for you.
2. Let them know what their responsibilities are and what you expect.
3. Be clear, especially with yourself, on what your own job is.
4. Tell the staff you want them to manage themselves and that they will run the part of the business they’re in charge of.
5. Explain your vision for the company.
6. Communicate the performance targets for each person’s role.
7. Document office processes so everyone knows them.
8. Reward people for doing good work.
9. Allow people to feel safe.
10. Then let them do their jobs.

The concept of self-management is crucial for leading a business. Initially, autonomy was difficult for some of our team members. We overcame much of this, though, by working together in quarterly retreats.

As my 14 employees — including my wife and two daughters — joined me in my practice and stepped more into self-management roles, it gave me more time to focus on what I should be doing. I now spend 30 to 40 percent of my time working on my leadership responsibilities, which include

Creating the company’s vision and the strategy to get there
Setting our business targets
Defining staff job roles
Identifying our ideal clients and deciding which clients will see which team members
Developing business processes
Keeping track of revenue and expenses

I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without my wife, Nina, who works as a financial planner in the company. She’s taken on the primary prospecting and referral role and she develops the financial planning team. For me, it was letting go and leading and bringing my family into the practice that’s fueled the business’ growth.

Our self-management culture empowers staff members to make their own decisions, which makes them feel better about themselves. People work better when they feel good about themselves, which leads to our practice’s success. By focusing on running the business as a business, we have had growing sales, higher profits and more clients.

John R. Benton Jr., CLTC, is the founder of Chartered Financial Services in Warren, New Jersey. He is a Top of the Table member and has been an MDRT member since 2005.  Watch Benton in “Let go and lead.” (MDRT member exclusive)


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