Editor’s note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. People keep coming to me for help, which is great, but I often end up doing the job instead of teaching them. How do I get out of this?
—CEO of a well-funded company that is doing great
First, congrats that the company is doing well. That’s amazing. Now, let’s talk about how to get you to be more effective in how you lead and manage.
It sounds like you are going through something that happens to many leaders at some point or another. You are busy picking up all of the bits and pieces when things go wrong, and you are even serving as a crash dummy for whatever isn’t going well.
And although this is not uncommon, I must stress: This is not your job. Worse, it’s holding you back from being great at your job.
If the company is doing as well as you say you have the luxury to hire people. That means that you can assign this work to them. With these extra tasks off your plate, you get back to the work you want to be doing—and the work that will actually move the needle.
I get the sense that you feel the world is on your shoulders. That’s hard. But you are not alone. Oftentimes employees go to their managers looking for help, but instead of getting that help the manager does the work for them. Sometimes it seems like the more efficient way to get it done, because you know it will be done right (or at least the way you want).
It’s counterintuitive, but taking more time upfront to guide, teach, coach—and even to correct—will save time in the long run. It’s that “teach a person to fish” adage. If you don’t show them how to be self-sufficient, you will be responsible for feeding them and you will always be starving for time.
I like to use the following steps to help team members become more independent and empowered—and help me get back to the work that I should be doing.
- Assess the capability. Can they, and will they, do the job effectively? You want to always set them up for success, which means making sure that they have the right coaching and access to necessary resources.
- Communicate what success looks like. Be crystal clear on all of the expectations—make sure they know what success looks like.
- Make sure they know there’s a learning curve, and be there to guide them. Ensure that they are comfortable coming to you when issues arise. You are still accountable for the results. It’s easier to fix problems when you hear about them early.
- Establish checkpoints to monitor progress. Hold people accountable to expectations, and do this frequently. This prevents you from receiving nasty surprises at the end.
- Celebrate success. Applaud accomplishments. Let the team have the roles of the heroes.
Your company is in a good place. It will be in an even better place once you master this skill. There will always be work to be done that you can’t get done. Focus on what’s most important. Hiring more people and enabling them to do more work will free you to do what matters and enable you to scale.