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Successful Project Management: Lessons Learned From Richard Branson

Leadership

Prolific entrepreneur Richard Branson is known as a daredevil, both in business and extreme sports. He’s not afraid to dive into new business ventures. His name is synonymous with risk-taking. So if there’s one person in this world that can teach us how to manage projects, then that would be Virgin’s adventure-driven owner.

In a couple of recent Q&A articles, Branson revealed some of his techniques on how to effectively delegate leadership roles to all his businesses, and how to find time to communicate with all the companies within the Virgin Group.

Art of Delegation

According to Branson, having a “terrific” group of managers is the key to achieving a solid company despite its diversity. His trick, it appears, is in the art of letting go. Delegate some of the work to your staff and let them take full responsibility with their jobs right at the beginning of the business or project.

Branson added that this may seem counter intuitive for the majority of other entrepreneurs who are in the middle of launching a business. As a leader, you should be able to give employees enough space to lead and grow in their current jobs and encourage them to be flexible within their responsibilities. Through this process, they will gain more confidence to take each of their roles to the next level and contribute more ideas to the company.

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“When employees tell you about their good ideas for the business, don’t limit your response to asking questions, taking notes and following up. If you can, ask those people to lead their projects and take responsibility for them. From those experiences, they will then have built the confidence to take on more and you can take a further step back,” Branson said.

By the time your business expands, you already know which person you can depend to lead a certain project with the minimum direct supervision from you.

Art of Communication

With Virgin’s culture of delegation, it is really interesting to find out how Branson is able to find the time in communicating with all his team leaders across his diversified business empire.

As an entrepreneur who receives as many as 300 to 400 emails a day, Branson admitted that finding time to read all messages is an issue. However, Branson believes that ignoring an email is rude for any entrepreneur.

“I’m aware some senior executives simply delete all emails from people they don’t know personally, arguing that most of the messages just create distraction. To them, it is not worth the effort of weeding through the emails to find those that contain useful information. But I find this approach impolite and bad for business.”

In order to respond to as many messages as he could, Branson scans the list of emails and delegates them to his assistants and colleagues. Of course, he also writes some of the responses himself.

By being proactive in dealing with his emails, Branson keeps himself abreast with all the updates and issues within his company.

And when it comes to mobile devices like smartphones, Branson says, “Do not let it manage you.” During meetings, don’t check your emails. Instead, read your emails in bursts, which means delegating an hour or so for the task.

Delegation is also vital in terms of communication within your project. Branson detaches himself from each of his team, making sure that they can work for themselves. By doing this, you will find the time to see the overall picture of the whole group and make good decisions in the process.

“You can build good communications into your company’s DNA by ensuring that discussions are built on openness, clear language, and a willingness to listen to everyone who has something to say, from the person at reception to your top manager. Make sure that people’s curiosity is encouraged. If they have made a good suggestion and have seen results in the past, your employees will ask questions and be persistent, which will help them to solve problems they encounter,” said Branson.

Rules for Good Business

Managing a project involves a lot of dedication and passion. But you can’t do everything by yourself. You need to find and hire the best people that you can trust to help you run your project. They may not always do the things that you normally would do, but let them take responsibility for all their actions.

Branson believes that it “is the only way to instill a true sense of responsibility; it will prompt your senior management team to run the business as though they own it themselves.”

To wrap things up, I want to leave you with these five rules from Branson in building a good business, which are also applicable in project management:

1.      If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. You must love what you do.

2.      Be innovative: Create something different that will stand out.

3.      Your employees are your best asset. Happy employees make for happy customers.

4.      Lead by listening: Get feedback from your staff and customers on a regular basis.

5.      Be visible: Market the company and its offers by putting yourself or a senior person in front of the cameras.

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