Why systems beat initiative for your team

Why initiative won't help your business

When they’re looking for a new person for their team, small business owners often say, ‘I want someone with initiative’.

Initiative is great. It solves problems, opens up opportunities, creates new directions. It’s got your business off the ground.

But when it comes to someone else doing work for your business, is that really what you need?

The problem with relying on initiative is that someone’s best work is only as good as their thinking on that day. It’s only as good as their energy or their health.

It relies on them having the same mindset as you if they’re going to do things you like. And it relies on you keeping them continually motivated and informed about what’s going on in your business so they can make the right decisions.

And if they’re not there, there’s no one else who can take over.

You need someone who can DO things brilliantly

What you need instead is someone who can carry out the repeated, consistent work your business needs to do. You need someone who can understand what needs to be done, and do it excellently.

And to do to that, you need a system. A system of best practice, and consistency. A system that doesn’t rely on whim or mood.

There can be space for creativity within a system. But the best system allows someone to understand immediately whether what they’re doing is in line with the principles of that system. Someone can deal creatively with a customer, but they understand what the expectations and limits are. They can intelligently edit blogs, but they understand the keywords you’ve prioritised, the style of content you want, and when it needs to be posted.

A system is worth a thousand ideas

Many people are intimidated by setting up a system. Maybe you’re not sure where to start, or it doesn’t come easily to you.

Start by writing down what you do for your regular activities. Write down the things that make it successful, and the things that make it weak. Define what the outcome should be. Put down the tools that need to be used. The delegation checklist in 7 Steps to Brilliant Outsourcing has other useful pointers. Turn it into an instruction sheet.

And if you’re stuck, hire someone to help you. Find an expert to help you put order into your processes. Work with someone who can help you write things down and, if necessary, put in place the tools you need.

And then you can go out and look for people to run those processes. The good news is that finding people to execute systems well is easier and cheaper than finding people who can do that as well as being expert problem solvers.

Once you no longer dependent on one person using their initiative in order to do a job, you’ll find the reliability of what your business does goes up. Your business is less dependent on any one person, so it’s stronger. People know what’s expected of them, so managing them becomes easier.

You’ll find you have a business that knows what it needs to do, and does it excellently and obviously, day after day. And that’s more attractive to customers than almost anything else.

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