Most businesses owners I meet are so overwhelmed with keeping the day to day of their operation running — constantly putting out fires and responding to opportunities — that they don’t have the time or energy to think about strategy or execute on their brilliant ideas to really help the company grow.
They’re constantly reacting instead of doing what they do best; the thing that is usually at the core of their business.
This misallocation of resources (you!) is a plague for growth stage companies. The underlying problem is usually weak organizational structures and teams that don’t fully understand their role and the role the owner should be playing.
To better illustrate this dilemma, let’s look at The Oracle versus The Queen Bee.
In mythology, an Oracle is a priest or priestess through whom a deity is believed to speak. They give prophecy and see the future. They offer wise, authoritative decisions and opinions. In short, they’re the end of the road—they know all, see all and (in business) are responsible for all.
Oracles, unfortunately, are generally mysterious, all powerful, and terribly lonely.
The Queen Bee, on the other hand, leads a pampered life. No matter what, team member bees make sure that the queen is fed and pampered so she can perform the one task that is crucial to the survival of the hive. In a bee colony, the Queen’s primary role is procreation, literally giving life to the next generation of bees.
In business, the owner’s central role is to generate, grow and protect the financial well-being of the company. This could take the form of thought leadership, business development, nurturing customer relationships, or fundraising.
The specific Queen Bee role is not the same for every owner or company. Your Queen Bee role has to be the role that you as business owner are called to do, enjoy doing, and do better than anyone else in your company. This role is literally the lifeblood of the business.
Think about it. Would you rather be the all-knowing Oracle, the lady everyone comes to for ALL the answers? Or would you prefer the role of Queen Bee; a leader who does one thing incredibly well and leaves the rest of the tasks to specialized workers who collaborate to promote the wellbeing of the business?
Of course you want to be a Queen Bee. Imagine giving one task, the thing you love MOST, 80% of your attention. Running your company would be a different playground indeed.
So, HOW do you move from Oracle to Queen Bee?
You have to change the way you operate and help your team understand your new role, their roles and the importance of each.
I first heard about the Queen Bee role from my friend and colleague Mike Michalowicz. (Thanks Mike!) He also described the process for narrowing your Queen Bee role. The Queen Bee role is part of Mike's next book on systems and automation - so stay tuned for more!
Here’s how to get started with this dramatic shift:
(This exercise can be done in 30 minutes, although implementing will take weeks or months.)
First: List the top 10 roles and tasks that you spend time on in your business.
Use sticky notes to write down each thing as it occurs to you. One role or task on each note.
Second: Identify your Queen Bee Role.
- Imagine giving 3 of those tasks away. Imagine never doing them again. Which would you give away first? Put them aside.
- Next, imagine giving away 3 MORE of those tasks; imagine never doing them again. Which would you give away second? Put those aside.
- Finally, imagine giving away 3 additional tasks. This is going to be hard, but in the end you need to identify just ONE role*.
During this process, ask yourself: “If I can only do one thing from this list what is the one thing that I have to do to keep the business running? Can I do this one thing over and over and be happy?”
Your Queen Bee role should be a role you enjoy, that is central to the business’ well being and fits your specific talents and knowledge.
*If you started with more than 10 tasks keep giving up tasks/roles until you have just one role left.
Third: Remove the obstacles that prevent you from focusing on your Queen Bee Role (“QBR”):
- Put your Queen Bee role in the center of a blank piece of paper.
- Arrange all the other roles/tasks around the QBR. Place the tasks that you gave away first on the far edges of the paper, the next three are closer in, the last three are closest to the Queen Bee role.
- Now compare this layout to how you actually spend your time and focus. What can you do to shift your focus to the center, giving away or eliminating the roles at the edges first?
- Make an action plan for to implement this new structure and engage your team in the conversation so they all understand why this shift is important to the company as a whole.
Repeatedly narrow your focus week by week until you can consistently spend 80% of your time on your Queen Bee role; without working more hours than you want to in any week! (Hello weekends, welcome vacation time.)
Yes, it will take time (weeks or months) to break the pattern of everyone on the team coming to talk to you about each little problem or question in the company.
To accelerate the change stick to your Queen Bee role!
Insist that your team make decisions without asking you first. Identify team leaders who are responsible for day-to-day problems and empower them to make their own decisions (and learn from their own mistakes) instead of depending on you.
You can do it! And trust me, everybody in the company will be happier.