Have you ever been on a long road trip with someone who insists on doing all the driving? What happens when the 12-hour mark comes and goes, and they continue to sit behind the wheel of the car, maintaining that 110 speed, swilling down the coffee and popping the No Doze because – well, it’s their car and you have to be in Calgary by morning?
Do you feel safe? Is this person acting rational? Isn’t there a better way? After all, you can drive too, and then maybe at least one person can get some rest (because you can’t sleep if you are worried about your driver nodding off and plummeting down the hill).
On a road trip, it seems sensible to share the driving and make sure that everyone arrives safe and refreshed. But wait – there’s a business analogy behind this road trip scenario as well.
Face it – owning a business is a lot like going on a long road trip. You’ve got goals, a timeline and yes, passengers in your “car”. They are often your employees, or other people important to bring on the journey. It’s true that nobody knows the car like you do, and you’ve been driving it a long time. But sometimes giving the wheel to one of your trusted fellow passengers can be an excellent business decision as well – especially when they know the area they are travelling in at least as well as you do.
A business woman I respect did exactly that a number of years ago, when she and her husband ran a recycling business. They had a group of employees working for them. Most were in their 20s, and they were the route drivers, the frontline people, the sorters, and the business developers. Between them, the employees managed the day-to-day affairs of the company. But the owners’ business colleagues still shook their heads when the policy decisions of the company were handed over to the employees to discuss and implement, in a weekly staff meeting where the staff literally made the rules. “You are giving up that much control over how your company is run? What are you, crazy?” “They are just kids – what do they know about running your company?”
In fact, the owners thought it was the best business decision they’d made for that company. Their staff felt more than listened to – they actually had real input, and could make a positive difference in their work environment. The staff knew where the inefficiencies were, and found ways to become more productive. Staff turnover decreased (in a demographic rather notorious for staying at a job only as long as necessary), job satisfaction increased… and so did profits. The owners sold that company a few years later for a substantial sum of money. And they attributed much of their success to the input and improvements generated by their employees.
So much lip service is given to the idea that “our staff is our greatest resource”. If you believe it to be true, tap into that resource – and do it often. Not only will it free you up from some of the burden of solitary leadership, it will bring new ideas into your business, improve the skills of the people who work for you, and probably bolster your bottom line.
And you might stand a better chance of getting where you want to go safely!
About Catherine Novak:
Catherine draws from over 25 years of communications and adult education experience. A graduate of University of Victoria, she’s lived and worked in locations as diverse as London UK and Lillooet BC, and returned to Victoria – her spiritual home – in 2004. Catherine is owner of WordSpring, specializing in working and social media consulting. As well, she teaches social media strategy and tactics in independent seminars and at Royal Roads University.
Woman driving from MS Word Clip Art Collection
Article © Catherine Novak, 2009
© Gil Namur, 2009