There's a little bit of the Lone Ranger in every remodeling entrepreneur. You're proud of your business. Its growth reflects your hard work, long hours, and high energy. For some time, you probably wore most of the hats, made all or most of the decisions, and regularly rode into town to save the day, amazing employees and customers alike with your technical knowledge and problem-solving skills. You then rode off into the sunset.
The problem with this style of leadership is that after you left the scene — or leave the scene, as the case may be — the same problems happened again and again, requiring you to ride into town once more to save the day.
If employees just follow your directions, they may never learn how to solve (much less prevent) problems themselves. Thriving companies need problem-solving employees. These employees, in turn, don't want to be held back, micromanaged, or directed by a leader whose knowledge or experience may be less than theirs in the functions they were hired to perform.
If you do any of these things, you might not be the right leader.
THE HANDOFF To get your business to the next level, with the right employees, you'll have to abandon the Lone Ranger mentality. Either learn and apply new management skills or hand over the reins to someone who can let your staff meet their full potential.
I took the latter approach when I ran my remodeling company. By promoting a trusted employee to the role of general manager, my business and employees thrived, and I was able to pursue professional opportunities beyond the company.
Bill Farnsworth had skills that complemented mine and, I later realized, were critical to the business' growth. He was much better with the people side of the business — employees as well as customers. He had much more patience and tact than I did in addressing problems with customers and employees, including performance issues. He knew how to simplify things so each team member understood what was expected of them, and he did this in ways that motivated them to follow through.
I later realized that I never would have mastered these skills, I would have been unhappy performing them, and I might have caused several mutinies trying.
GET OUTTA TOWN I see at least three reasons why this change in leadership and leadership style worked for my business.
First, I recognized the need for change not as a failure, but as an opportunity for me, my business, and my employees.
Second, I transferred the leadership over time, not overnight. Employees had time to adjust before I stepped out of the picture, and Bill had time to learn to think and act like an owner: to work with me, to understand my expectations, and most importantly, to see how he could accomplish those goals through skilled employees.
Third, I got out of the picture. That's a critical component of successfully transferring business leadership. Don't go through the motions, talk a good game, and then ride back into town when challenges arise.
It wasn't easy, I can assure you. I had many uncomfortable moments. My natural inclination to prevent and tackle challenges made it hard to sit back and let Bill work through and learn from them.
But my confidence grew over time, as Bill and his team racked up positive accomplishments. Looking back, it was the right thing to do for me and for the team. We're all better off today because I got out of the way and let inspired employees do what inspired them in their work.
What about you? Can you suppress your inner Lone Ranger and let your employees do their jobs?
— Shawn McCadden founded, operated, and sold a successful employee-managed design/build company. A co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute and former director of education for a national K&B remodeling franchise, Shawn speaks frequently at industry events and consults with remodeling companies. firstname.lastname@example.org.