Are you a micro-manager or can you delegate?

In the early days of a startup it’s common and necessary for the founder(s) to be involved in every decision. From the strategic to the mundane.

Some love it and others do it out of necessity. 

But as the company grows the founder(s) have a decision to make. Do they keep a very tight reign or do they delegate responsibility across the company.

And the question is how and when do they make those decisions.

Unfortunately there isn’t a good general answer that works for every situation. 

After being in a number of startups myself and seeing our firm invest in over 40 companies, a few things come to mind.

1. The founders have to do what’s natural to them. Forcing them to be something they are not is where the trouble starts. Sometimes founders will try to convince themsleves they can delegate when they just can’t. So they let the team work on a proeject but then the founder can’t hold back anymore and they come down like a bolt of lightening towards the end of the process. Very disruptive and problematic. I’ve seen it up close and it sucks. 

2. Years ago, I was always against the idea of hiring a President/COO/GM for a young company. It just felt like overkill or a layer that was unnecessary. But I’ve learned that a strong, organized, driver #2 exec in the company can provide enormous benefits to a “control freak” founder. Getting this right isn’t easy. Finding someone with the skills but also chemically works with the team is hard. Yet if you find the person it’s pure gold. The trust then goes from 1 person (the founder) to 2 people and then the COO/GM can delegate appropriately. It’s a highly effective fan out effect. As a result decisions get more efficient, hiring is more efficient and things start moving. 

3. Sometimes founders will find themselves completely burnt out. That is usually a clear sign that they absolutely need to delegate and the board should help coach the founder to see that and figure out a plan to make a change. The change could mean changing the organizational structure (e.g. add management) or narrow the function of the founder. I’ve seen both work well. Some it does mean a founder needs to move on

Much of this depends on the culture of the company you want to build. 

The best advice to help you evolve from a micro-manager to someone that can lead and delegate is to simply hire the very best people you can find. They will demand more responsibility and you will sleep better at night. 

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As a parent, I’m learning how to evolve from a “micromanager” to someone that can let others (ie my kids) make their own decisions. It’s isn’t easy but I’m learning its the best thing I can do.