From Spider to Leader
by
Grant Tate

Sampson runs a thriving small technology company. He decided to enter the business world five years ago after securing several important patents through his work in the engineering college of a large university. Because he was well-known in engineering as well as business circles, finding customers for his products was relatively easy and the company moved to profitability in only two years.

At the beginning, the company ran like another research project where the chief researcher, Sampson, made all the decisions. He was the spider at the center of the web. Now, after growing to twenty-five employees, Sampson is overwhelmed with people coming to him for direction, for decisions, for “what should I do now?” Sampson has become the elegant knothole of his business. His approach is restraining the company’s growth.

If you are like Sampson, the center of your company, what can you do?

Commit to change. This requires facing up to your inner motivations for being the center of the company’s action and decision making. Being the big guy (or gal) in the business can be an ego booster; leadership can be exhilarating to many people. But, if if you want your company to grow, you must develop a competent organization where you are not the center.

Set the overall direction and foundation for the organization. Make sure the desired future state of the business is stated, or painted, in terms that inspire everyone in the company. The foundation should also include a set of defining values to help guide everyone’s behavior.

Set goals with each individual, both short and long range. Short-range goals help define the pace and immediate results required, longer range goals set the direction. If Sampson has been setting the pace of the company by telling people what to do and guiding all activities, moving to a different mode of management will take time. The employees will have to learn how to take responsibility, understand their goals, limits and guidelines, and be coached in new ways of working. Sampson will have to move from director to coach, not an easy transition. Most employees will probably welcome the new responsibilities and freedom, but others may feel suddenly abandoned. The change in management methods will take teamwork and good communications.

Prepare a decision matrix. In any organization, certain decisions are reserved for the top dog, while many others can be delegated to employees or other managers. Sampson should prepare a list of the types of decisions required in the organization and designate who should make each decision, who should be informed of the decision and if he needs to approve certain delegated decisions. When a decision needs to be made, take the time to layout the decision process. Some decisions, of course, need to be made quickly. In that case, delay or delegation may be costly or have other negative consequences, but, for most decisions, timing can be planned. Defining the decision steps is a good way to coach subordinates and still provide management oversight of the ultimate decision or result.

Provide good feedback and encouragement to the staff. Be open with the staff about what you are trying to achieve by delegating more of your responsibilities. Ask for their help in reaching your goals. Describe the approach you plan to use. Then give them frequent feedback on the progress. Also, ask for their feedback as well to let you know how you are doing in your new role.

Following these steps can help you move to a growth mode of management…growth to the company, to you and to your staff members.
With these steps, you can become more of a leader rather than a spider at the center of the web.