A hands-off approach to leadership empowers staff to make decisions and innovate
Staff that feel empowered at work typically perform better and have higher levels of job satisfaction. By trusting your employees to make decisions and allowing them to learn from mistakes, you can start a positive feedback loop within your business.
Believe, reward and forgive
For Pete Fraser, owner of Harbour Lights and Fraser’s Fish & Chips in Cornwall, empowering employees to make decisions is based on three principles: believe in your staff, reward innovation and forgive mistakes.
By believing that your staff are capable of achieving, you build two-way trust and allow yourself to let go of everyday responsibilities. Rewarding innovation and effort makes employees realise that good decision making will always be recognised. By forgiving mistakes, you encourage staff to step out of their comfort zones and push themselves to achieve their full potential.
Pete said his background in the Navy helped to shape his hands-off approach to business management.
“In the Navy you set the goal and rules to play by – those non-conditional ones – recruit the best staff and then give them free rein. When people make mistakes, which everyone does, don’t bite their heads off. Instead, enjoy it as a learning opportunity by talking it through,” he said.
This approach has given his staff the confidence to become improvement enablers, rather than simply clocking in and then going home.
“One of my junior workers grabbed me recently and said ‘Pete, I think you’re totally wrong about this, you should do it another way’. I gave him a pay rise on the spot. He had the guts to say ‘I think you’re wrong about this’ to someone so senior to him and the respect I had for him was massive,” he said.
Pete explained that it is important to let staff know they have your full support and can ask questions whenever they need to.
The upshot of Pete’s management style is that he is free to focus on growing and improving his business, rather than being bogged down by mundane tasks or micromanaging.
Two days per week, he is free to uncover new practices, speak with his mentors, analyse market trends and generally get “out” of the business.
“It’s all about creating a self-managing business, regaining the right lifestyle and not being an employee in your own business,” Pete said.
“In the Navy you set the goal and rules to play by – those non-conditional ones – recruit the best staff and then give them free rein. When people make mistakes, which everyone does, don’t bite their heads off. Instead, enjoy it as a learning opportunity by talking it through."
Pete Fraser, owner, Harbour Lights
Set goals and measure progress
Setting clear goals and implementing processes to check whether they are on target is essential to a hands-off management approach.
For Pete, this means breaking his year down into quarters and then having three or four big goals for each period, which he constantly monitors as they move through the months. He then has a scoreboard, so he knows where the company’s financial health sits.
“If I’m lucky enough to be on a Caribbean beach I could just look at the scoreboard to see how goals are progressing. How are sales doing? What are costs and profit? But there are also gauges of how happy staff and customers are to monitor,” he said.
He cited Gino Wickman’s book, “Traction”, as the inspiration behind his efforts to build a self-managing business. Wickman’s theory is based on having a company that is goal focused and breaking them down into chunks that can be achieved over a certain period of time.
While building a self-managing business does not happen overnight, Pete believes that setting the right goals in the right sort of time to the right kind of employees can ultimately let you take a more hands-off approach.
location: South West (England)
business size: 50-99 People
business type: Hospitality & tourism
Top three takeaways
Rewarding innovation and praising effort makes employees realise that good decisions and going the extra mile will always be recognised.
By forgiving mistakes, you encourage staff to step out of their comfort zone and push themselves to full potential.
To adopt a hands-off approach to management, you need clear goals within your business and processes to measure progress against.