Losing The Forest For The Trees – A Startup

Starting a new business requires a lot of grit and determination. Imagine being responsible for the finance,
the marketing, purchases in addition to the core business operations. While it may be easier to do so
when the startup is still at a nascent stage, it becomes difficult once the business grows beyond a certain
point. Especially when the business scales to other regions and not just volumes, it is not humanly possible
to have eyes everywhere and be on top of everything. So how do you grow your business without
impacting the quality of your product/service as well as operational efficiency?

The obvious is to have a partner or a subordinate (Yes, President. My bad) onboarded and made
responsible for certain aspects of the business. But what about the autonomy. Are they given complete if
not a distinct level of freedom to manage their operations? Probably not. That is where the issue of being
unable to maintain a sustainable and inclusive people and business growth arises.

Founders, when starting their operations, struggle and work hard to establish their business and get their
act right. Once they get the ball rolling and the time comes to scale up the operations, they decide to pass
on the responsibilities to another on paper but maybe not in reality. As a result, when a new individual is
hired, he is informed of his KRAs but on exercising his power finds that his plans are usually nipped in the
bud. This is primarily because the founder (s) don’t usually like to give up their power and would like to
keep control of everything no matter how difficult that may be. The result: the newly hired does not feel
a sense of accomplishment or motivated enough to give his best, the business is not able to scale or
maintain an equitable focus throughout and the egoistic founders end up over-burdened and misuse their
efforts. Yes, they say they are multi-tasking, but it appears more like a lack of trust.

Kevin O’Leary, famous businessman and entrepreneur also once mentioned how startups shouldn’t be
over-dependent on just one person. In fact it is said, when someone tell him that an employee is
irreplaceable, he fires that person immediately.

This scenario isn’t just common in startups. It’s in fact more prevalent in corporates of all sizes. There are
too many managers who are used to micro-managing and keeping all the decision making with
themselves. Even though they allocate tasks to their subordinates, they always ensure that the critical
touchpoints and communication happens via them. They simply refuse to groom their team or promote
a more participative environment. While it may seem strange considering it will only lower their workload,
it’s the fear of loosing their dependency and importance that drives their behavior. Not only does this
affect the team’s quality or quantity of output but it does inhibit a lot of potential leaders from growing
in their career path. When subordinates are more exposed to challenging tasks and can make mistakes
because of their limited accountability in the present, they will only grow in confidence and learning to
handling greater responsibility. This will enable their managersto focus on new avenues and other skillsets
which will likewise help them in their career growth. However, this is seldom the thought. Therefore,
organizations see a competent first line of managers but if this first line happensto be missing for a reason,
there isn’t a second string of subordinates who can come close to taking their place. And this is not
because the subordinates aren’t capable. It is simply the lack of exposure and grooming. Wouldn’t
succession planning be a whole lot easier if this wasn’t the usual practice.

Organizations should therefore try and promote a more participative team. They should review the
percentage of employees who have started as junior or medium levels employees but have now grown to
be confident and capable leaders. There are three primary ways this can be achieved even though not
overnight. First, there needs to be a change in the culture. Managers should be constantly made aware
and be reminded to keep looking for the talent within their teams. Secondly there needs to be sound
training programs for different managers in place. Lastly organizations need to define certain Key
Performance Indicators (KPIs) for example the number of employees within a team that have been
nurtured and transformed to managers.

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