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The tortoise and the rabbit: How to grow great leaders from within your business


Mantra: The team is the reflection of the mindset of the leader.

For many entrepreneurs it is a solo start-up with a great idea and a passion to create a service or develop a product that will earn them an income and will assist or change the lives of those who use it.

For others it maybe a partnership between two friends or life partners, however, at some stage when the business begins to grow and evolve there comes a time whereby you have to consider employing staff or out sourcing certain projects and tasks.

Recruiting staff unfortunately is done on the fly with new businesses as it can happen quickly, especially when you make a pitch and it is successful and all of a sudden you have to produce hundreds of a product or provide a service to multiple areas all at a similar time.

It would be lovely to think we all had the luxury to plan for growth incrementally through our journey of business, but I know as a business owner for 22 years it doesn’t matter how hard you try and plan at times you just have to believe in yourself and do it, be positive and ask your team or those who are closest to you for their ideas, suggestions and feedback.

As business owners we don’t always see the trees for the forest or we are so focussed on the big picture we can’t always break down the little steps.

How to successfully hand over the reins

This is where it is important to really take the time to look at some of the tasks in the business that you currently do and if there is an opportunity to employ someone, keeping in mind when you are interviewing if this person could potentially see clients, become a business development manager or write training manuals, for example.

Of course there are roles in a business that perform a particular function and you employ staff to do or outsource those roles because they are specific, e.g. bookkeeping.

Eventually though the business is no longer just about you and you can’t do every role or just let a few tasks be done by others, because your business won’t grow, some corporates are concerned when dealing with “one woman/man” businesses due to the “hit by a bus” scenario, or that’s what I call it.

“If I was hit by a bus today would my business still go on?” That is the question you must ask yourself.

If you want your business to grow and succeed, but more importantly you actually enjoy the journey and don’t become resentful or absolutely exhausted, here are some tips:

  1. Recruit people who are good a task but have initiative
  2. See the potential in your staff and ignite their passion
  3. Trust and develop their skill set
  4. Give them small projects and let them do them without you fussing over them
  5. Let go and put your complete trust in them

Of rabbits and tortoises

You maybe reading this and thinking to yourself, it is a lot easier said than done and I will admit I was reserved like you for many, many years.

I have admin staff plus over 60 casuals, an excellent client list that continues to grow but I still thought that I had to be doing everything or at least overseeing every step of the way.

In my recent book, The VIP Principle I call this style the Rabbit Manager:

  1. Typically chaotic
  2. Overwhelmed and running around
  3. Trying to do too many things at once, because on some level, thinking I had to have a hand in every piece of the business, neglecting to delegate
  4. And I was always “busy” when people asked how I was

However, upon reflection I am working on the opposite style: The Tortoise Manager:

  1. Using a methodical approach
  2. Considers the team and understands their strengths
  3. More inclusive
  4. Seeing the potential that each individual brings to the table

These tips are based on a true story

Personally I put this into practice three years ago when I was heading overseas for six weeks with my daughter on a dance tour.

Knowing I would have to be focussed on her and driving thousands of miles to competitions during this time and working with different time zones I knew I couldn’t do it alone and I had to put my total faith and trust in my PA, Sarah who had been with me for 10 months.

This was a big leap of faith but I knew I had to do it and that I wasn’t going to the moon so if there was something that Sarah couldn’t handle or was concerned she could always call me and there was always emails.

The six weeks went smoothly with no phone calls and only emails to check in to say everything was going fine. Sarah did a great job, so I repeated this journey the following year and continue to go on regular trips overseas (conference speaking).

I have developed another two members of my key admin staff and now all three work independently and as a team. Each of them taking on more responsibility and allowing me to develop the business.

By continuing to develop leaders in my company it provides greater opportunity for business growth as well as personal growth for my staff.

They have all shown their individual strengths in their roles and have proven to themselves (even though at first they were scared) they can achieve results when empowered, encouraged, supported and trusted.

Michelle Pascoe is a professional speaker, trainer, coach and author. She lives and breathes her passion for customer service, mystery shopping, and team motivation. She is an experienced businesswomen and specialist in every aspect of service operations and processes, and their impact on the customer experience.

Michelle Pascoe