Don’t democratise your business. Here’s why…

It’s very tempting to over democratise your business.

But the truth is that in some instances, your (admirable) desire to empower your teams and involve them in every decision within the business can lead to your decision making lacking in precision and direction.

Let me be clear that I’m challenging democratisation around decisions at the very top of your business. Your purpose, your mission and your values. Decisions around your ‘North Star’ should be protected, and if you’re a founder these decisions should but put out for debate rarely, if ever.

When it comes to decisions of this kind, it’s worth remembering ¬†legendary advertising art director¬†George Lois’ advice, ‘Nothing great can come of more than 3 people in a room’.

Your role as a founder or leader of a business is to create a horizon for your teams to work towards. Your leadership teams should be held accountable to create a plan and in turn their teams should come up with the actions and strategy that will ensure the plan succeeds. Beware of too many cooks when it comes to the foundation of what you want to achieve.

A great example of this occured with one of my clients recently. A founder running a growing and increasingly successful business with a very competent leadership team. All this said, the momentum of the business was being lost, and he had a sense that things were not as in focus as they had once been.

We explored this feeling and realised that it was time to revisit the growth plan. His first instinct was to call for a leadership team meeting or an offsite where the brains trust could get together and work out the plan for the next few years. I stopped him and asked him to reflect on what he wanted as the majority shareholder (thinking with his shareholder hat on as I call it).

The exercise then becomes less about planning and more about reflecting on his ambitions and wants. We spent time on the whiteboard really exploring the edges of his ambitions for the business. It was an invigorating and exciting session – and the outcome was some ambitious goals for the business and a better understanding of the sort of business he wants to lead.

At this point, we rallied the troops. He now plans to share his goals for the business and then work with the leadership team to design a plan to deliver those ambitions.

Why does this matter?

He has been clear about the journey – the ‘pole star’ has been brought back into focus. He and the team are starting with a longer term ambition rather than thinking in a slightly more limiting interative way. The team are galvanised and excited by the plans (and challenged in the best possible way) but the business has refocussed. There’s an energy.

His team now have clarity of purpose and know what they are planning for. That’s where they should be focusing their efforts.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, do you bring your team in for every decision, do you protect your horizon? Should you reconsider which parts of your business you democratise?



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If you have something on your mind, a challenge you’re wrestling with or just want an alternative point of view, I’d be very happy to lend an ear and maybe help you start to unpick the issues.