This is the third post in an ongoing series about the transition from maker to manager.1
When The Iron Yard was born there were two people (me and Peter Barth) sitting in an empty room. Peter was still acting CTO of a software company at the time, meaning that I had my hands in every single part of the business. For the entrepreneurially-inclined, having every songle part of a business under your purview is enthralling because you finally have the chance to do things how you think they should be done.
Today, there are 35 employees across 7 locations at The Iron Yard—a long ways from two people in an empty room. For me, the process of going from maker to manager has been a significant learning experience. One crucial part of that journey has been learning to delegate responsibility. When your company is an infant taking its first steps, you have your hands on everything by necessity. As it grows, though, healthy progresas will be reflected in shifting responsibility of leaders from producing things to empowering others to produce things. Those can be hard steps to take.
Sometimes delegating is difficult because we like having control. Other times that’s difficult because we’re just so used to doing everything that our habits create myopia and we can’t actually see that we need to delegate tasks.
I regularly eat breakfast with a good friend who runs an amazing non-profit organization2, which in many ways is a startup in its own right. We’ve been talking through what marketing looks like for his company and the subject of donor newsletters came up. I asked him, “What are your newsletter updates like? Are you investing in that communication?” His response was brilliant:
It’s crap because I’m doing it.
I laughed, because the exact same thing was true of us at The Iron Yard. I had kept the responsibility of writing newsletters on my plate and the result was worse than crap quality—they weren’t being produced at all.
It’s a strange position to take, but my friend’s comment challenged me to look at our business and ask, “what’s not working, low quality, or not getting done because I’m responsible?”