Want to grow? Don’t be a Hub…

Summertime is vacation time; is your business ready to run without you?   Recently a situation occurred with one of our Aspire clients that added a twist to this familiar summer quagmire.  However, it wasn’t the owner, but the Operations Manager (#2 position on their Accountability Chart) who was going to be gone for a few days.  It created the perfect scenario to test the skills of the emerging leaders in the business…and maybe your business could too?   

Our connected world has changed this a little, but by-and-large most companies are still hesitant to have too many senior members of management off at the same time, especially when it’s #1 and #2.  Typically, time off is staggered so there is always someone who “is in charge” or “knows what they’re doing”, but that mentality does little to instill any confidence in the up and coming leaders in the organization.  If anything, it discourages them.  

Stay away…times two?

The challenge to our client was:  While the Operations Manager (#2) was away, would the owner (#1) of the company agree to “be absent” too.  No phones/text.  No check-ins.  No email.   This business has six key management positions, so the remaining four managers would be given the opportunity to experience leading from a more intentional vantage point.

Sounds easy enough, but all too often occasions to stretch the skills of your emerging leaders get overlooked.  We are so focused on keeping everything running smoothly, that we miss out on golden opportunities to run a sort of “controlled experiment”; a time to test the skills of those needing to grow into future leadership positions, especially if you’re goal is to scale and build a healthy valuable business.   As opposed to a business where all the major decisions are dependent upon a small number of individuals, stuck in what is often described as a Hub and Spoke management style.

A Hub and Spoke management style is basically a business where everything gets routed through the hub (think airport).  The “hub” is a limited number of people in the company (usually the owner(s) and a couple key managers).

Common limitations created by the Hub and Spoke management style:

  • Employees are hesitant to make quick decisions when the hub(s) are away.
  • Growth of the business is limited to the capacity of the hub.
  • Hubs tend to micro-manage, there is lack of employee autonomy in the organization.
  • Employees are afraid to make any decision without first running it through the hub.
  • Holes in the business are never exposed (until there’s a crisis).
  • Hubs spend way too much time working In the business.

If any of the above sound familiar, “the hub” may be holding back your business.

Stay away…times 2: The result

As it turned out our client accepted the challenge and for a few days the business ran without #1 or #2….and it ran quite well, at least as far as it was reported!   Additional responsibility was appropriately entrusted with the 4 remaining managers with one being identified as key manager.  Areas of responsibility were understood, and the business continued to conduct itself in a manner that no one outside the business knew anything was less than business as usual.  It was a success.  

It all sounds simple and it’s easy to take the position that it wouldn’t be that hard to pull off for a few days or even a couple weeks, but the reality is without preparation you’re asking for trouble and it’s amazing how fast it can turn into chaos without it.     

The key leaders of this business would probably be the first to admit that they aren’t perfect.  But as a team, they have collectively put a tremendous amount of time and effort into systematizing their business with repeatable processes and procedures, developing their team, and creating an environment where their values are not just words on paper but demonstrated by their actions. 

In the process, they’re creating a company where the hub (or who is in the hub) is less significant and we know now the boundaries for time off just got a little broader!  What about your business, does it operate with excessive Hub and Spoke communication?  What would happen if the top 2 leaders in your company were completely disconnected for a few days?  A week?  A month? or more?  Would the business continue as normal?  Want a some ideas to reduce dependency on the Hub?  

As always, we value your comments in the space below.   Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach