He had planned a 15 days trip to Prague with his family. To ensure that work goes on seamlessly in his absence – He trained his successor in supervising and overlooking the work. Days leading up-to the trip had left him overworked as he wanted to finish off everything on his plate before leaving. Work looked fine and was functioning smoothly until one day when it all came crashing down. Two days before the trip there was an error on part of one of the employee. This error had got the client upset. The issue was not a grave one, but he dint think that the team was capable of solving it and that led the MD of a design company to cancel the Prague trip.
This is a common problem that a lot of owners of growing companies face. Most of you are unable to take a vacation, let alone a long one. You are so involved in the daily work operations and being the front face for the client that all the fire fighting has to be done by you. You have a team of 30 individuals and yet you find it difficult to leave the ownership to your team and leave.
According to a survey roughly half of small business owners don’t take time off, and more than 40 percent find it hard to relax during vacations due to constant concerns about what’s going on at work.
While this may sound like a simple case of paranoia, 13 percent of survey respondents said their businesses have experienced problems when they weren’t around.
- “My team can’t handle the work alone. “
- “They won’t be able to solve the issues on their own. “
- “They cannot have a conversation with the client like I do.”
- “Clients only want to talk to me, they refuse to talk to anyone from my team“
These are common statements made by founders of growing companies. I’m sure you will resonate with some of these if not all. But, most times I have noticed that this is only a fear. It is like any other fear; like the fear of heights or fear of water or fear of staying alone. When you have fear of water and you want to overcome it – you need to accept the fear, commit to overcome it, take swimming classes, practice daily and eventually you get over the fear of water. In fact, most times you end up spending so much time in water that it becomes your favorite sport activity.
If you break down this process it is –
- Accepting the fear
- Committing to overcome it
- Getting a mentor to teach you the technicalities (as much as you read about it online you won’t be able to swim in water only by reading, you need a professional to teach you how to swim in water)
- Practicing regularly & finally
- You get over the fear
These are not fears – these are facts
You may argue with me saying, ”these are not fears but facts. We make these statements based on past experience. My team is not capable of handling work at this level”. But, I want you to take a moment, think about the work environment that you have created and be honest with yourself – have you created an environment where employees can try, where they have mentors, they are not afraid of failing or taking risks, there is no shouting or screaming if someone fails at something, there is continuous feedback given, the expectations are clearly communicated, you understand their weaknesses and you push them to overcome the fear. If you have all this – and employees are still not taking the ownership then there is a problem. However, if you do not have this environment then it’s just your fear- fear of losing control, fear of your employees not being perfectionists like you. Fear of giving them ownership and they making a mistake.
How to make your team take ownership
You cannot expect employees to come on the first day and start taking ownership of work. Very few people come with the skill of being proactive. For majority of the individuals, we have to create a work culture that supports creating proactive employees.
Every company wants proactive individuals who take complete ownership of the tasks at hand. However, there is no culture that supports the same.
Behavior is created over a period of time. It is created when you clearly state what behavior is expected, there is a culture that supports it, platform where you keep reiterating the expected behavior and recognition and rewards to encourage the behavior on a continuous basis. When the power of all this combines – It becomes a ritual and the behavior becomes a part of the individual.
To make team members take ownership you need to:
- Believe that they are capable
- Tell them that you trust their capabilities
- Mentor them on a regular basis and hand hold them for sometime
- Give continuous feedback &
- Reward and recognize their results and effort
It’s a dream that an entrepreneur has – to go on a long vacation without worrying about client calls, issues and escalations. You can create this only when you have a positive culture in your company.