Managing the Small Business Owner: Control, Influence and LimitationsA coaching session with a client and a post on Forbes.com about span of control set a theme for me last week. How much do small business owners have real control and how to manage the limitations?

The traditional definition of span of control is “the number of people who report to one manager in a hierarchy. The more people under the control of one manager – the wider the span of control. Less means a narrower span of control.”

Important distinction for small business owners

In my work with small business owners who are growing their business, the question of hiring and managing employees comes up over and over. There is some anxiety about increasing one’s span of control too fast but more questions arise around trusting employees to move the business forward. It’s great to see one’s hard work come to fruition when you add new hires or create an executive team out of current employees.

CEO mindset, control and influence

You put the right people in place and they begin to fulfill their roles. But there can be some hiccups as you make this transition. One of the hurdles many of my clients face is when they appoint someone else as a project manager. Adapting to your new role is part of the process of using the CEO Mindset.

Unsettling role change

Like my client noticed, the role change is unsettling when the business is under pressure. Sure, you’ve put good people in place and, normally, there are few, if any,  questions. But what about when there are financial issues? That’s when trust can be tested. If you’re used to calling the shots and/or have a history of getting the business out of trouble, the new role of influencer can be very educational.

What might you learn?

  • Learn to trust yourself. You chose the people who are actively doing business development, seeking investors or keeping a product launch on track. You also chose to build the business and stretch your self and abilities as a leader and manager.  Without faith in one’s judgement, you could very well find yourself micromanaging or simply bypassing your staff and doing their jobs for them.
  • Remember your responsibilities. One part of being CEO of your small business is find the talent that best fits your culture and needs. But you are also responsible for providing accountability and for making sure revenues are healthy
  • Use your influence. Colin Gautrey, an expert on influence, writes that influence comes from power. You have the power due to your position, your ability to persuade and tactical decision-making to choose which persuasive methods to use. You  may have some insights, expertise or recommendations but you have to be willing to act as guide and not the director.
  • Use a sounding board. Speak with a mentor or a coach and acknowledge your anxiety and discomfort with your changed role. Managing your stress will allow you to influence more effectively.

You are still an important person in this situation

As one client discovered, after being on vacation, he did put the right people in place and they could resolve a problem without him. He described feeling pleased and somewhat disconcerted that his team could competently cope without him. However, he discovered he could trust his judgement and concentrate on the next stage of growth. He also  learned that effectively communicating his expectations led to his team making good decisions. In effect, his influence was internalized by his team.

For another client, he is in the throes of the learning process of being an influencer and not having complete control over the business decisions. For him, the CEO mindset is not second nature and the limitations on his role require that he use different skills.

Using the CEO mindset is knowing when to let go of control, using one’s influence and understanding that there will be limitations as you change your role in your small business. Do you have any examples of how using the CEO mindset helped you understand your role as leader and influencer?

About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and trainer who guides established small business owners to unlock the CEO within. I have a deep appreciation for learning and understanding my client’s business style and culture. Whether you are expanding in your own backyard or into another country, my 3 keys coaching process helps clients move from being excited about a new business opportunity to having the tools to make it actually happen. Curious? Schedule your complimentary coaching session here.

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