Flying high

Paul Touw has a saying at
XOJET Inc.: “It’s not the
spin that kills you; it’s the lack of recovery.”

The saying refers to the
moment an airplane begins an
uncontrolled spin toward the
ground — one of the most
dangerous situations a pilot
can face. The executive chairman of the fast-growing private jet company uses the saying to prove to his 150 employees that mistakes can be forgiven — if you can fix them
before it’s too late.

“If something’s not working,
even if you were the cause, let
us know, and we’ll help you fix
it,” Touw says. “That’s more
important than getting into the
mess in the first place.”

Smart Business spoke with
Touw about the challenges of
delegation and how creating a
“do not do” list can help you

Q. What are the keys to

The biggest problem with delegation is (CEOs) having a
problem letting go. They often
think they can do it better than
someone else, and that is generally one of the biggest fallacies
of people who lead companies.

You tend to think you’re in a
leadership position because
you’re better at something than
someone else is. That’s not the
case. You’re in a leadership
position because you’re the
best person to lead the company — not because you’re the
best person who can do every
job in the company.

No. 2 is hire great people
who can do the specific functional things better than you
can. So if you are in a position
where you find you’re not delegating, it’s probably because
either you think you can do it
better than anyone else, or you
haven’t hired the right people.
It’s one of those two things.

If you think you can do it better than the people you’re delegating to, you haven’t hired the
right people. If you have people who can’t accomplish what
you’re trying to do, you haven’t
hired right in the first place.

Q. How do you decide what
to delegate?

Figure out your ‘do not
do’ list. Sometimes that’s
more important than
your ‘do’ list. You have
to prioritize your time,
and to do that, you have
to figure out what things
are the most important
and what things are the
least important.

My role in the company is to set the vision,
set the direction and
make sure the team is
all marching down the
same street. To do that, I
have to make sure I’m
not doing a bunch of
things that would distract from that.

Q. How do you decide
what things go on the ‘do not
do’ list?

You have to force yourself to
say, ‘I can’t do everything.’ So
the things you cannot do, you
have to off-load onto someone
else and trust that they can do
it. They’re not always going to
do it as well as you think you
can do it, but you have to let
that process work itself out.

You might get an 85 percent
product, but that’s better than
me spending a small amount
of time on it when I don’t have
enough time to do that particular thing and getting a 50 percent product.