From Solopreneur to Team Leader: Using Process Storytelling to Delegate Effectively
As an entrepreneur, you know that what you do takes passion, courage, perseverance, and a strong work ethic. It is these exact qualities that drive you to build your business in a way that embodies the full spectrum of your professional capabilities. But your personal process takes a lot of skills and experience to execute, and as you enjoy success over time, you also start to take on an increasing workload. The business evolves from every client sale being a thrilling achievement, to having so many sales that you become overwhelmed. This is the lifecycle of many small businesses and, if you want to grow at that point, you will start looking to hire help in some form to manage the growth.
This is where things tend to get complicated. The same intuition and boldness that served you in the early stages of building a solo operation becomes a double-edged blade when it comes to delegation. Many solopreneurs aspiring to become agency or company owners struggle to effectively communicate their processes to others in a way that effectively takes a continuous process and splits it into multiple interdependent and cooperative subsets. In many cases, hiring another person doesn’t make life easier, but introduces waste, errors, and additional effort on the part of the solopreneur without a strong return on the investment. New contractors or excited apprentices become quickly overwhelmed and disenchanted, and the business goes from a very productive one-person show to a lumbering, awkward, small team scenario. Scaling from one to several is, counterintuitively, a complex undertaking, because many solopreneurs lack the process foundations and management maturity to seamlessly insert others into their daily workflow. This is where understanding process communication and, more specifically, process storytelling can help manage the risk.
What is process storytelling?
Storytelling is a means of interpreting and sharing experiences. Process storytelling is to do just that, except with a process focus. Effectively telling stories about your process means you can deftly transfer your knowledge and experience to others, as well as to yourself. That’s right, to yourself. As a solopreneur, you have largely automated many of your processes. Actions that you do quickly without thinking after years of practice, or small unconscious steps that hold things together between more complicated activities, are often exactly what you target for delegation as you start to scale. In doing so, you have to first acknowledge that you don’t know your own process off-hand (because you have become largely unconscious of it), and that this makes it difficult to share with others.
To evolve from a solopreneur to a team leader, you have to first understand your process from end-to-end, and then have the means with which to share that understanding with others in an intuitive way. Being a strong process storyteller means you know how to tell stories about your process that evoke the experience of executing the process in the listener – they can see (and feel!) the process in a way that captures its complexity. This allows team members to better intuit how to support and manage the overall business objective. To tell a good story, you need two things: something worth telling, and a language that others will understand with which to tell it. If your business is doing well, you definitely have a story worth sharing; so let’s focus on the language to do so.
Telling the process story
The first step in telling the story of your process is to admit that you can’t explain the entire process story of your business verbally on the fly, and you have to use a written language to start compiling all the information. Whatever comes out of an attempt to document a process is what we in the process space would call a “process asset.” Process assets can be training manuals, videos, an Excel spreadsheet, or whatever medium you can think of to translate operating information to another person; however, most of these traditional mediums are hard to build, cumbersome, and fall short on the storytelling element.
The best way to visualize a process is to build a process map. These kind of documents often get a bad rap because they can often appear intimidating and complicated – but they don’t have to be. At Cavi, we have built a language and method to capture and visualize process stories quickly and effectively based on a universal physical language.
Self-knowledge: the key to effective delegation
The secret to delegation is to “know thyself”. If you know something well enough to write it down in a way that others can understand, you can be assured that you actually know it. After you put your brain on paper, it becomes infinitely easier to look at it in physical form and follow your honed business intuition. You may not be able to claim mastery over process storytelling techniques from this introduction alone, but if nothing else I would encourage you to attempt documenting your processes in any way that makes sense to you, reaching out for more guidance as you need it, or just learning as you go – I promise you will be happy you started the journey, no matter where it leads you at first!
It will save you a lot of time to “interview” yourself and write down your process story using the Cavi Mapping Language (CML) capture and visualization techniques. If you go that route, you will be able to explain it to others and won’t face the typical nightmare scenarios associated with starting to scale your expertise from running a solo operation into a team setting. You will be surprised to see how complicated your automatic processes can be when you get to the telling; and once you see it, you may even identify some optimization opportunities even before you bring anyone else into the picture. Good luck mapping your process story!
Interested to learn more? Want a little more depth and detail on the Cavi Mapping Language and mechanics of process storytelling?
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