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Scaling a business is an extremely nuanced process: It takes a brilliant strategy, smart delegation and tons of hard work. To gain some insight on how to pull this off, we spoke with Harvard Lecturer Robert Pozen, who offers some great tips on building an efficient workplace culture in his book Extreme Productivity.Here are the best parts of our conversation:
As you grow, managing well is really about effective delegation. How do you figure out what you still should be working on, versus what to outsource?
That depends a lot on the type of business you’re with and types of people you’re working with. The question isn’t whether you’re better at the function than anybody else. The question is, can you as the founder be the only person to do it? The classic problem as an entrepreneur is that they have a hard time delegating. But that’s really crazy. Recruiting other executives is critical, so is dealing with customers and dealing with regulators. Those are functions that only the top founders can do.
The way you delegate is that first you have to hire people that you really have confidence in. You won’t truly let those people feel a sense of autonomy if you don’t have confidence in them. For example, you tell an employee they need to develop a new product in a particular niche. But if you go further and say they should go about it this way, then you’re micromanaging and depriving that person of feeling any sense of control over their situation.
If you want to keep an entrepreneurial mindset within the culture, you’ve got to be ready for people to make mistakes — and they will. It’s fine to make a new mistake once. You’ve got to be very tolerant of people making mistakes for the first time. But then if it happens again and again, you’ve got to have a discussion.
How do you balance strategic thinking against everyday tasks?
It’s hard to answer the question in the abstract. There’s a priority exercise that I urge people to go through (discussed in our previous interview here). What do you want to achieve? Who’s the best person to do it? Make sure that your goals align with how you spend your time.
It’s important to reduce the number of decisions you make every day (because making decisions depletes energy and brain power.) Most people get overwhelmed by the insignificant decisions of their lives. I’m urging people to minimize the time spent on these when they’re not critical to their most important goals.
What’s the key to using the 80/20 rule, or Pareto Principle, on a daily basis?
Everything we talked about starts with this: if you don’t know what your priority of the year is and how that translates to this week, you’re not going to know what’s important to you. A shocking number of people don’t do that. Even the people who do never compare how they’re using time as compared to their goals.
If you go through those two exercises I mention in my book, you’ll get a lot more focused on what’s important and discover what you should and shouldn’t be doing.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to getting the goals right and understanding how much time you’re spending on tasks, and trying to figure out where your comparative advantage is as a leader vs. as a producer – and what only you can do as a leader.
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