This is the most difficult and most involved, but has the greatest long-term results. In reality all preliminary steps just prepare you for this ultimate vision: becoming redundant.
There is an emotional component to it. To a large extend we are defined by the things we do, especially at work. Becoming redundant is challenging that.
And this is where the mastery of the first step (spending time) becomes essential; life needs to be filled with meaningful and joyous activities. Otherwise there is no point in working towards redundancy.
Millions of people wait their whole life for retirement, only to find
they do not know what to do. They feel bored and useless.
I’ll assume that you have mastered spending time and want to do that with bigger projects – a six-week cruise? When was the last time you left your business that long? Ever?
Or a humanitarian project that has always been at the back of your mind…
The vision needs to be clear, focused, positive and bold but believable so that it can guide you when you are bogged down in the details.
It is best to attack a large vision in small steps.
Your first goals could be to reduce the daily hours, to reduce the days you work per week, the time you take off in one go (3 days, 10 days, 3 weeks?). Take it slow, everyone has to adjust to it and everyone needs to be prepared to make it a joyous experience.
And please don’t tell your team: I don’t want to work any more, just live off what you bring in. Not the smartest approach.
What’s in it for Your Team?
Employees work for a financial reward. They also like being employed for the security that job gives them. And with these two things in place, they like to be valued for what they achieve.
So in whatever you do, make sure the security stays. Do not give the impression that you have lost interest in the business and are only after freeing your time and enjoying life. Use this sense of achievement to motivate your team.
By involving them in your bigger projects and a larger vision you might actually inspire them to contribute even more.
The Basis: an Organisational Chart
If you do not have an organisational chart, draw one up. Do not think about the people you have working for you right now or what they do. Instead start with the logical areas of responsibility that belong together.
In small organisations there is usually a large overlap of responsibility, people wear many hats. That has developed over time, out of necessity to react to the circumstances.
An organisational chart is a tool to get clarity about the different hats people are wearing. It also shows the interaction between the areas of responsibility.
Determine what outcomes each position is responsible for. Quantify the outcomes (Key Performance Indicators, KPI’s), so that it is possible to check the progress.
Depending on where your organisation is at, it might be useful to involve the whole team (or part of it) in the development of this chart.
Or it might be better for you to develop the plan and slowly start grooming your team members for specific positions. That really depends on how much responsibility people have right now and the level of trust in your organisation.
After you have the chart, fill it with the names of your team to reflect reality. Put your name in as many positions as necessary to show the truth. This is about who is accountable for delivering the
KPI’s in these areas. Be honest and don’t be surprised if you end up in most of the positions. That is normal for most small businesses.
The Ideal Next Step
Determine which position you could relinquish the easiest. It is the one that is least critical to your operations and has someone who is qualified for it already. It might even be two or more positions, but it is important not to overdo it.
Large change brings about stress, for you and your organisation. It is therefore better to take small steps and see successes. Bigger steps can be made with the background of this success.
Announce someone’s new position (after having talked with him or her and determined what the responsibilities and authorities are). That can work really well when that person is self-confident and thrives on this new challenge. It is great for you, because it establishes clear boundaries.
It could be that such a move frightens your team members. That is often the case if everyone is used to you making all the decisions. Then a new culture has to be nurtured first.
Your culture has to be a culture of trust, of support and mutual respect. Ask yourself whether you trust and respect everyone in your team. Do you support their growth and interests? Do you respect your clients?
Delegate your tasks
Start to delegate your tasks to the appropriate team members according to your organisational chart. That is a time investment. In the beginning, it will take longer than if you just did it yourself.
But it leverages your time, as you will not have to do that task again in the future.
Responsibility cannot be delegated. You can only offer it and support the people who volunteer to take it on.
Include desired outcomes. Be specific. Quantify the outcome. If there is a specific way to do the task, write it down. If there is not (or you think there might be a more effective way to achieve that outcome), let the person responsible plan how to achieve the outcome and review the plan before implementation.
Whatever you or your team writes is the basis of your operations manual and can be re-used in the future for training others (and improving your processes).
Specify the authority they have. That could be a budget to achieve the task. It could be who they can negotiate with (suppliers or clients).
Be specific and give them enough authority so that they can achieve the outcome without having to come to you. If that is too high of a risk, reduce the task to an outcome that can be achieved with the authority you are willing to give.
Specify when you will review their progress. Review frequently if the task is high-risk, but trust that they can do it.
One essential ingredient is to welcome mistakes. It is easy to get upset by mistakes. But they are the greatest learning experience your organisation can have.
People only dare to venture beyond their current boundaries when they feel safe. If every mistake they make leads to a scalding, they will hold back and continue to rely on you.
Think of a child that learns to walk. Part of that experience is to learn to fall. Welcome the falls as getting one step closer to success. No need to get angry, instead encourage to learn from it and continue.
When a desired outcome is not achieved, review with the person involved what went wrong and how it could be handled differently in the future. It would be ideal to let people fix their own mistakes wherever possible. Again that is a time investment, but it pays high dividends in freeing your time in the future.
Update the operations manual with the learning from mistakes.
Be generous with your praise of what your team and individuals achieve. There is nothing more satisfying than being noticed for our contribution.
The goal is that the operations manual defines every process in the business. It is good to stick to one page per item. Use little writing. Flow charts, bullet points and check lists make it a lot easier to use.
Where to from here?
Over time you will stop reviewing the achievement of some areas and have people oversee that. Continue to pass on areas of responsibility until you are no longer in any position on the organisational chart.
At that point, you can live off the profits, sell the business or continue to work in the areas that you enjoy. It is then your choice.