Samantha Parks is the owner and CEO of Sparks, a small agency that develops advertising, promotions, and marketing materials for high-fashion firms.107 Parks has tended to keep a tight rein on her business, overseeing most projects from start to finish. However, as the firm has grown, she has found it necessary to delegate more and more decisions to her associates. She was recently approached by a hairstyling chain that wants a comprehensive redefinition of its entire marketing and promotions look. Should Samantha try to manage this project in her traditional way, or should she delegate major parts to her employees?
Most managers confront this question at some point in their careers. Some experts propose that top executives need to stay very close to the creative core of their business, which means that even if their primary responsibility is to manage, CEOs should never cede too much control to committees of creative individuals or they can lose sight of the firm’s overall future direction. Moreover, executives who do fall out of touch with the creative process risk being passed over by a new generation of “plugged-in” employees who better understand how the business really works.
Others offer the opposite advice, saying it’s not a good idea for a CEO to “sweat the small stuff” such as managing individual client accounts or projects. These experts advise executives to identify everything they can “outsource” to other employees and to delegate as much as possible. By eliminating trivial tasks, executives will be better able to focus their attention on the most important decision-making and control aspects of their jobs, which will help the business and also ensure that the top executive maintains control over the functions that really matter.
These pieces of advice are not necessarily in conflict with one another. The real challenge is to identify what you can delegate effectively without ceding too much power and control away from the person with the unifying vision. That is certainly easier said than done, though.
If you were Samantha Parks, how would you prioritize which projects or parts of projects to delegate?
In explaining what makes her decisions hard, Parks said, “I hire good people, creative people, to run these projects, and I worry that they will see my oversight and authority as interfering with their creative process.” How can she deal with these concerns without giving up too much control?
Should executives try to control projects to maintain their position of authority? Do they have a right to control projects and stay in the loop on important decisions just so they can remain in charge?
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1. If you were Samantha Parks, how would you prioritize which projects or parts of projects to delegate?
When you start a business, you have the idea that you will fully be committed to the needs of each one of your customers, being able to give them your full attention that is required to perform an exceptional job on each project. This is how you would come to the point in your company where you would need to have associates to help fulfill these tasks. I think that it would be very hard to give someone some control of your business, but to keep your company growing and excelling you need to be able to trust others who have the same vision that you do.
Samantha can begin by determining which part of the business is she most protective about, such as meetings with potential customers, does she want to be there to discuss what exactly they are needing? Does she want to be the one who creates all the designs for her customers? She can decide if she wants to be the one who designs the concept and then delegates someone to fulfill her ideas. It would depend a lot on which parts of her company that she has attached herself to the most, and which parts she can let go of, starting there will give Samantha some direction and should make it easier for her to shift the workload.
2. In explaining what makes her decisions hard, Parks said, “I hire good people, creative people, to run these projects, and I worry that they will see my oversight and authority as interfering with their creative process.” How can she deal with these concerns without giving up too much control?
Samantha can emphasize this concern when she interviews or hires the people she wants on her team. She can make sure that each individual she works with understands that she is not trying to be a burden, but that it is her name that is on the line. Most employees should understand the apprehensions of their employer and should not have a problem with the critique they will receive from them. It is very important that they develop a relationship where the communication is open, when being criticized or critiquing, this is not an attack on them personally, but a chance for them to grow from experience.
3. Should executives try to control projects to maintain their position of authority? Do they have a right to control projects and keep in the loop on important decisions just so they can remain in charge?
Controlling projects to maintain a position of authority should not be necessary when running a company, the position held should be understood from the beginning. If a superior need to have updates on projects or needs to be in the loop on the way a project is going, they can discuss this ahead of time. It should be clearly stated what is needed from both sides, this way there is no misunderstandings. Executives do have the right to oversee projects, and employees should not feel threatened by this action, unless they were being maliciously targeted, they should not feel this way. Employees should appreciate that someone has interest in their work and the progression, plus feedback from superiors can help individuals who have hit a roadblock or it can even help to develop a new idea.