Bill Gates has had plenty to say about achieving success over the years. The co-founder of Microsoft, an avid reader of about 50 books a year returned to his alma mater, Lakeside School, to help celebrate the prep school’s 100th anniversary.
Speaking to high schoolers about what type of mindset is required to build your own success, Gates offered up plenty of great advice, including having an unquenchable desire to learn and a sense of wonder and curiosity about how things work.
Gates said, “For the curious learner, these are the best of times because your ability to constantly refresh your knowledge with either podcasts or [online] lectures is better than ever.”
“Success means having to delegate”
The top takeaway that I found useful for entrepreneurs juggling intense workloads and schedules came from an early lesson Gates had to learn: delegation.
In the early days of Microsoft, Gates recalled, he was doing what he had been most passionate about since the age of 13–writing software. He would do most of the code and edit most of the other people’s code. But he knew his obsession with programming wasn’t sustainable if the company was to scale, so he chose to trust in other people’s coding skills and let go of the rein.
As the company grew, he had to delegate what he knew to be one of his weaknesses since he was a kid to other people’s natural strengths. In this case, it was people management.
Being that it is the job of any leader to navigate the human side of the business, Gates brought in the exuberant Steve Ballmer, who “really liked people and management,” says Gates. Ballmer took the helm as chief executive officer of Microsoft from 2000 to 2014.
“What makes for successful delegating”
The very act of delegating alone doesn’t work. Having a great team in your corner is the first pillar to successful delegation for a leader. And two-way trust must be established for a leader to feel comfortable delegating and sharing responsibilities.
If you’re a reluctant leader unwilling to let go of control, look at the upside: Filling up your employees’ plates with shared and delegated work will make you a resource, a mentor, and put you in a position to facilitate coaching conversations that will build the trust you need to strengthen ties with team members.
While some level of patience is required, delegating tasks effectively leads to employees feeling useful, empowered, and integral to the functioning of the organization.
On the flipside, in micromanaged environments, the work is scrutinized to the last detail. The environment can be stifling because control-freak-managers want to oversee and have the final say in all the decisions.
In such a psychologically-overwhelming setting, there’s hardly room for group discussion or input to foster healthy collaboration. Loyal workers trying to find meaning in their jobs are left with nothing but taking their marching orders. In the end, this crushes the spirits of people and is bad for business.