By Hayley Robins, Senior Accountant at Hive Business
I have been changing the way I work over the past year. Now I delegate more, but it hasn’t been easy. I’m at the point where I can observe when things go wrong — as they inevitably do in any business — and then manage the situation without jumping in with both feet.
While my natural inclination is to steward people, it’s been good to see my team step up to the new challenges they are being exposed to. I’ve watched the dynamic change so that rather than people turning to me, which I used to encourage, they’re turning to each other.
So I think I can now appreciate the discomfort of letting go and making space for colleagues to develop and step up. I see the same thing among practice owners. When a principal has been running their business for a while, it’s their baby. The type of practice owner we work with, however, is usually looking to grow and privatise, and this process generally involves relinquishing operational control and hiring a business manager.
This may sound simple, but it’s not easy. Your business manager will come in and want to change things, but if you’re not serious about delegating, they will feel constantly pushed back. If they aren’t given trust and freedom, they can’t do their job, and they will understand that their vision is being rejected. Apart from anything else, it’s toxic for morale to have someone so disenchanted at a senior level in your business.
Why would anyone let that happen? I think dentists and accountants bring the same control-fear mindset to their work, because we’re technical and like things done a certain way, for good reason. Therefore it’s stressful to let go. But giving someone the freedom to approach a task in a different way might not necessarily be wrong, and it might even be better.
The principal who views their business manager as ineffective is usually the one blocking their effectiveness. A business manager needs to be able to take decisions and make things happen without dragging the principal into everything. Some business managers never seem accountable because they’ve never been given this freedom, so they don’t feel ownership.
If you’re a practice owner, could you, your team and your business benefit from you stepping back from operational details?
- Do you check up on everything your business manager does?
- Do you change decisions after they’ve been made?
- Do you devalue your business manager’s opinion and judgement and assume yours is right?
- Do you redo things yourself and say “this is how it should be done” rather than having a discussion?
- Do you allow differences of opinion to become personal and imbued with ego?
If it’s a yes to one or more of these questions, you’ll probably already know that this is not a pleasant way to be. It’s stressful. You’re paying your business manager to help you but you’re not allowing them to. It’s a cost base that isn’t delivering, and your resentment is building because there is no return.
If this is you, we can help, starting with an Agile programme that gets you familiar with oversight of your business without operational involvement. You’ll learn to step back and relinquish operational control, thereby establishing real leadership. I see this transition as critical for all successful practice owners and trust me, I know how difficult it is.