A Simple Delegation Framework that Empowers Leaders with Greg Ott at Nav

You know delegating is essential to managing more and more work. You want a simple and easy way to empower your leaders. Using a delegation framework will make it consistent every time you need to get support from others. My guest today is Greg Ott, CEO of Nav. This company was ranked #623 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Nav is a marketplace for loans – matching lenders with borrowers. Greg gives you his delegation framework that empowers leaders. The delegation framework also drives growth. If you want to learn how to improve your delegation, this is the episode for you.

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Target Audience: Greg Ott is the Chief Executive Officer at Nav Inc. Nav was founded to have a meaningful impact on the lives of millions of small business owners by bringing efficiency and transparency to financial decision making. We are changing the way these business owners secure lending with our innovative technology and customer-centric approach.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Greg Ott
Even in delegating, it’s so important to have some kind of framework so that people are operating consistently with one another. Whether it’s a language if you as a company use okrs. That’s a great framework, objectives, and key results, using a framework called bhogi, SM, objectives, goals, strategies, and measures, but some kind of framework that allows you to create consistent language consistent structure. That’s where the real work is as the leader.

Intro [0:30]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host, my name is Gene Hammett. I help leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth, are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [0:47]
Optimizing your time is something you have to always juggle as a leader of a fast-growing company. All of the founders and CEOs I talked to say it’s a constant struggle to make sure they’re spending their time on their most valuable projects, their most valuable people, and that they really run out of time, because there’s so much to do, and I totally get this, I lived it. But also, I work with clients that live it every day, as well, you’re going to be listening to a great conversation today between me and Greg Ott. He is the CEO of Nav, they are a gateway for small business financing. He goes into a little bit of detail inside there. But what I really love about this conversation is we talk about a framework for delegation. And a framework for delegation or framework for anything gives you structure gives you a consistent language gives you consistency. And that framework, once it’s used in jeld, can be used across every level of the company, not just one on one with your direct reports. But across the company. And a strong framework really will pay off. I love this conversation, we’d look at some of the energy drains going on inside of his business, it’ll let you know that you’re not alone as a CEO, this conversation will help you be the strongest leader you can be. If you’ll just lean in, take a little bit of insight from it. And realize that you can always transform to a higher level, maybe learn from others, and take your leadership to the next level. Now here’s the interview with Greg.

Gene Hammett [2:11]
Hey, Greg, how are you?

Greg Ott [2:13]
Hi, Gene, good to see you.

Gene Hammett [2:14]
Great to be back here on the podcast.

Greg Ott [2:16]
Yeah, it is nice to be back.

Gene Hammett [2:18]
Tell our audience a little bit about your company Nav and what you guys are up to?

Greg Ott [2:22]
Sure. Nav is a gateway to financing for small businesses. We’re a technology that uses data and intelligent user experience. To make it a lot easier for small businesses to access the capital they need. We’re not a lender, we aggregate the lenders. And then we allow small businesses to connect their financial data. And then use that to identify where they’re actually qualified before they apply. Make small businesses a lot easier takes a lot of the hassle out of them trying to walk into a bank and usually getting denied. Instead, we help them know exactly what their opportunities really are.

Gene Hammett [3:00]
I want to go just a little bit more specific on small businesses like what revenue ranges are typical for your transactions?

Greg Ott [3:07]
Were really 50 employees and below and even the longtail of 10 and solopreneurs sole proprietors, people. Typically, as we saw in the PPP, large banks, don’t consider them, you know, kind of marquee customers. In fact, a lot of banks consider any loans under a million dollars to be microloans. Most small businesses need 10-20, $50,000 is really what they’re looking for. So there’s this big gap in terms of the way traditional financial institutions or traditional models are set up and in what small businesses actually need. And so we serve that that long tail of small businesses by helping them find lenders who are actually looking for customers like them.

Gene Hammett [3:53]
Fantastic. And we appreciate the work that you’re doing. Glad to have you on the podcast for a second time. This is a part of the optimizer time series. I know we had done so many interviews before we couldn’t fit it in because everything was going on in your life. So here we are kind of catching up on it. You had shared with me and my team about one specific thing that really has helped you optimize your time as a CEO, and that was delegation. Tell us a little bit about why delegation is so important for your time.

Greg Ott [4:21]
Yeah, you know, if you know, delegation is an outcome of a number of things that you have to have in place. And as a CEO, you’ve got to be able to worry both about short-term things, but mainly about the long-term health of the company. And you’ve got to be able to have that capacity to explore future opportunities to develop new strategies and be looking two or three steps down the road. And so delegation is really critical so that you’re not always brought into the tactical, the operational issues of the day today, but for me, that really starts With building the team, and how you build that team and how you operate as a CEO.

Gene Hammett [5:05]
I think a lot of people get delegation wrong. And I’m sure you probably get it wrong over the years to what have you learned about getting it right?

Greg Ott [5:13]
Yeah, getting the wrong one is a lot about who can do this for me, and treating the rest of the organization as a kind of personal assistance of sorts. Right, and delegation isn’t a task or task aversion versus delegation being when, when I started to feel like I got it right was when I build a trusting team around a shared vision. And that’s made all the difference.

Gene Hammett [5:42]
We got to go deeper into that because I’ve written articles about this for ink magazine. I’ve talked about it with clients, you know, at nauseum about what it really takes to delegate Well, what is this shared vision that you’re, you’re referring to?

Greg Ott [5:56]
Yeah, kind of start with bullet points. And this is the point of building a team so that delegation doesn’t have to be, here’s a list of tasks, can you handle these for me, but delegation becomes, here’s where we’re going, and help us get there. Similarly, the idea is we want if the metaphor is your, instead of just telling people to build you a ship, inspire them about the adventure of the open seas. And so I start with four pieces. a shared vision is the most critical. Where, where are we headed? Why, what are we trying to be as a company? Why do we exist? As a company? You know, what are our expectations, so really, that shared vision, and then with the team, it’s looking you starts with a foundation of trust, trust, and transparency. So as a leader, I am transparent about everything from what’s going well to what’s not going well, our financial opportunities, some of the best, we’re trying to make some of the risks we’re taking. But at the same time, then, you know, helping people see how overcoming these challenges becomes really exciting.

Greg Ott [7:03]
So shared vision, trust, transparency, and then it’s about empowerment. And that’s really where the delegation part comes in. Because the team is empowered, because I know that they’re, they’re coming up with their own solutions to the challenges we have, I don’t have to spend my time specifically directing their work. Rather, they we know where we’re headed. And there the team itself is, is operating more autonomously to solve the challenges we need to get there.

Gene Hammett [7:32]
I love that. I love the fact that you have a framework for it. I don’t know if you refer to it as a framework, but the four parts, just highlighting those, again, shared vision, why trust and transparency and empowerment really help when you have a framework for things, do you think of it that way?

Greg Ott [7:47]
Absolutely. I kind of I don’t know if this is the way my brain works. But I do find it even as a leader in creating and delegating, right? Even in delegating, it’s so important to have some kind of framework so that people are operating consistently with one another, whether it’s a language if you as a company, use okrs. That’s a great framework, objectives, and key results, using a framework called Oh, gee, SM, objectives, goals, strategies, and measures. But some kind of framework that allows you to create consistent language consistent structure, that’s where the real work is as the leader. And then people can embrace that, you know, with shared vision all the way through to now they’re empowered to operate efficiently together.

Gene Hammett [8:34]
This is a lot like my coaching. And you probably get that because you’re coaching your people to understand these and be able to share that with their teams. When you give them the framework, they can share it much easier than trying to make it up again themselves. So it creates everyone’s ability for people to stay on the same page. I’m sure you feel that inside your leadership work.

Greg Ott [8:53]
Absolutely. Staying on the same page is so critical. I mean, especially now, going through the pandemic, and moving to a distributed workforce communication that might have happened a little more organically, because you’re sitting next to somebody now has to be a little more structured a little more deliberate. And that is that is critical for for teams to operate efficiently. And going back to the delegation, when I know the teams are operating efficiently, I’m much less worried about what is specifically they’re doing. But if they’re working together well together, it’s a good chance of them working on the right things.

Gene Hammett [9:29]
Well, let’s transition into part two of our conversation today. It’s all about optimizing your time. So you think about your own time, Greg, what is the one thing that you’re challenged with right now that you would like to be more clear about?

Greg Ott [9:42]
You know, I think part of the challenge, you know, optimizing your time is really optimizing your energy. And not all tasks are created equal, especially as a leader. And there’s some tasks that are more routine, more basic, I’m going to check in on Some of our key metrics to do even a kind of a Financial Review when people are presenting to you it’s not the same energy is when you are having to step back and challenge your thinking and your organizational strategy or engage in an entirely new opportunities in your business and say, Well, how would this disrupt what I’m already doing? So the mental energy, the mental shifting, sometimes isn’t as easy as scheduling a one hour slot here, a one hour slot there.

Gene Hammett [10:31]
You know, I’m glad you brought that up. Because a lot of people don’t even think about energy, I actually had a prospect looking with me, and it says, I can help you really understand the energy drains in your life. And he’s like, you know, I’m all good. I’m like, I don’t know if a person doesn’t have energy drinks. I think we have to acknowledge this as part of that being transparent with it’s not, we don’t all have it figured out just because you’re the CEO of a $10 million company and growing doesn’t mean you have everything figured out, are you kind of on the same page with that?

Greg Ott [10:59]
Absolutely. And you as a CEO, you accept accountability, and you accept that one of the things that you’re going to have to do is put in the time that’s necessary. But that, that shouldn’t replace the idea of what are you most productive, right, and that’s when you have the energy is when your brain is really clicking. Sometimes, you know, things like being well rested or feeling healthy, go so much into how you can manage your time because if you’re more productive, you know that that’s the number one opportunity.

Gene Hammett [11:34]
So in the vein of energy drains, and I don’t want you to share anything, you’re not comfortable sharing, you know, an open format with, you know, 1000s listeners. But what’s draining your energy right now in the business?

Greg Ott [11:46]
Yeah, I think there’s, when, whenever there’s especially we’ve had, we’ve had a little bit of turnover, and trying to address negative negative narratives that are an inaccurate narrative as well, so and so left, so that means this is happening. I think in a company, especially a high growth company, we’re, we’ve more than doubled in the past year. But we did that with the crisis, much, much leaner team. So a little bit of depends on your lens. Financial lens is really good for the team that really stretched thin. And it can be really energy-draining to just deal with continuous negativity in the organization, and challenges there. Versus you want you want everyone to realize the opportunity that’s in front of us.

Gene Hammett [12:39]
Now, I’ve got to ask you on this, because this is the coaching section of this. Have you addressed those openly? Because you mentioned transparency earlier, and I just wondering if you’ve addressed any kind of rumors so that you can get to get ahead of it?

Greg Ott [12:51]
Yeah, I do. Every other week we do my cadence with the organization now is we do a business update, where the team presents the business results of financials initiatives. And my framework, if you like frameworks is a little bit of How’s it going? Where are we going? What’s next, and then any hot topics. And then on the alternating bi-weekly, it’s an open forum, a town hall, and we just allow people to share and ask questions, and they can be challenging questions. I think, as a leader, I’m very comfortable getting more comfortable with people asking provocative questions. And that’s a core aspect of it, maintain that, that, that transparency, I think the energy the energy drain, can be sometimes when you find out that leaders haven’t cascaded well, or people have kind of perpetuated a false narrative. You know, for instance, when when we exit an employee for performance reasons, we don’t say so and so got excited, because, because of performance reasons, we just say they’re moving on to the next opportunity and let them tell the story. Sometimes those employees can start those, those rabbit holes, but that’s where, in terms of energy, you’re always trying to keep people recognizing the opportunity in front of them not getting caught up in, in kind of the drama of the day.

Commercial [14:25]
Before we go into part two, I really would love to just kind of recap what has gone on here. What Greg talked about was a framework for delegation. I’m gonna look down at my notes, but that framework is this. You’ve got to have a shared vision together, you got to know exactly where you’re going. And if you guys are connected on that vision, you have a much better chance of getting there. You want to share why this task is important, why how it fits into everything, and that why is often left out. You wouldn’t, you know, build trust and have transparency across this which means you want to talk to them about what’s really going on. What’s how, what you’re concerned about what your fears are, and that will help them understand how important it is for them to to really get this project done. And then finally, empowerment, you’ve got to get out of their way. You know, micromanagement is not good. But the opposite of micromanagement is empowerment. But too often people think that they don’t micromanage, but yet they’re hovering, or they’re, they’re asking for updates all the time, you want to learn to trust your people and empower them the right way. So you have those four elements, you’ve got a strong framework for delegation. Now, before we move into the second part, I wanted to talk about this one thing for you. If you are a leader who’s afraid to delegate, it’ll be difficult for you to get to that next level, it’ll be difficult for you to let go of being founder and make it to CEO, I work on these issues all the time for my clients, one client last year really had to let go of about 50% of the time he was spent reviewing the work of his team, it was very important because he had 30 years of experience, and he’s very knowledgeable. But I asked him who else would do it, if he didn’t do it, he had a couple of names that came to mind. Within a few months, he was able to identify and get processes moving so that he could start transitioning out of that role. By the end of the year. I know it took a long time because it’s very important to the organization and the structure and the the production of the work that’s being done. But he was able to let go of that I share this story with you without giving names because my clients confidentiality is very important. But when you let go, and you truly move from founder or CEO, it can be a game changer for the business, but also for your life and your stress levels for anxiety. Too often people sabotage themselves. there’s anything I can help you with this, make sure you reach out to me, [email protected] sign up for a start your journey call with me. But it really is about us you taking the next step of being the best possible leader, you could be creating a self-managing company. Now just go to genehammett.com. Start your journey. Here is part two with Greg.

Gene Hammett [16:59]
I’m kind of curious on this again, I don’t know the answer is kind of that coaching kind of curiosity thing. I understand why you exit people that way and not share the gory details of why someone’s performance didn’t measure up. But have you shared that the reason why you don’t share those stories with everyone?

Greg Ott [17:16]
Yeah, we do. And we’ve been very open about that. And we tried to we’re trying to respect that we in fact, when when people come and when they go, we talked about how trust and integrity are such core values for our company across the board, not just a team, but the way we treat respect one another this is treated with respect. So it in general, that’s, that seems to me to have worked pretty well in terms of doing that versus always having a I don’t want we don’t want to create the reaction we’re not looking for by people having worried Am I next. And that’s not the point. The point is brought, we’re always going to be changing this organization, we’re always going to be looking for the top players, and the top teammates to help us get there is always trying to replace. You know, I think in today’s world, there’s a lot of polarization. In today’s world. There’s a lot of aspects in the media or that trying to find find the thing that you’re unhappy about are find anything that you can react negatively to. And I think that probably just permeates in the background a lot of people so you have to be deliberate in countering it with consistent messaging or use a phrase, communicate clarity, over-communicate clarity.

Greg Ott [18:39]
And I think that’s a big, big part, you stay in front of those messages. I send out slack messages, often just about once a week, just really short ones just trying to be a little bit motivational, a little bit business update, the one I sent the other day was, you hear hope is not a strategy. But it really is. Because it’s about harvesting opportunities and possibilities every day. And so the point is that messages like that help replace kind of any of these negative narratives. And so it’s about being more deliberate, as opposed to waiting until they occur, being proactive, and trying to get in front of them.

Gene Hammett [19:15]
So let’s dive deeper into this. And I’m not here to make you cry or make you do anything because this is really surface level coaching. You know, I reserved that for my highest paid clients. Kind of just kidding, none of my clients cry when we talk. But like, Where is your struggle right now? If we were really having a coaching moment with someone who helps the fast-growing company, what’s something you want to get more clear about?

Greg Ott [19:39]
Well, I think you’re the one of the things I’m looking to do is is move up as a move up the floor, on our talent across the board, including my my executive team level. And that’s a tough, tough meter to do because you can be moved on one side and you got to move in the other side. And so it ties into everything from coffee. sation structure, titles, recording relationships we have whether it’s executives or sometimes senior managers who just probably aren’t the strongest, right? They’re not horrible. They’re not they’re not really a problem, but they’re not. They’re not great. And so how do you, you try and give them coaching and mentoring, but at some point, you’re gonna have to up level that my level sevens, one of the things we did I did was to the point of transparency, that we’re not the DMV, but we tried to create a very transparent compensation structures, so nobody’s wondering if the person next to them is making more, or Wow, I just complained about something, could I get a raise? So we don’t, we don’t do any of that the compensation by level is all published and consistent, really trying to remove any aspect of bias from from that compensation. But it also means that, okay, if I’m going to try and uplevel the role or change the change out certain players, it becomes complicated. And so recruiting and talent acquisition, as well as retaining our best become become big areas of mind energy.

Gene Hammett [21:13]
So here’s the question for you. I want to go from external because we can really focus on other employees and the energy whatnot, but let’s look at you internally, what has to shift inside your own leadership for you to become the leader that your team deserves at this moment?

Greg Ott [21:32]
Well, it goes back to the first point I keep on looking at is that, okay, just keep that day between Tuesday and Wednesday, then it would be great.So, okay, there, it does come back, sometimes it does go back to time management and just run out of time or energy to fully address the things that things I would like to, for instance, I do roundtables with small groups, usually seven to eight to nine employees at a time to create an open forum. But as I sort of do that, then my schedule gets eaten up, and I don’t have time to work with my, with my board on my fundraising strategy, or my, you know, talent acquisition team on, you know, some of the people we’re trying to work on. So I think that’s, that’s one of the things that would be time would be a great thing is just that efficient, ongoing communication. I’m, I’m more of a speaker than a writer. And in COVID times of writing is key. No one wants to spit, get jumped on yet another zoom. And, you know, I think to all those, all those parents who wonder if a liberal arts education is worth it, I think being a good writer or an efficient banker, this is a great value to have as a leader.

Gene Hammett [23:01]
Yeah, that’s certainly one area, I had to work on my writing horribly. As you can imagine, I was an engineering student at Georgia Tech, coming into my first job, it was not good. And I was expected to write three books, I did write three books before I was 25.

Greg Ott [23:16]
That was great.

Gene Hammett [23:17]
So I had the right structure and support around me to make me a better writer, and I still do today. So I get these things. And Greg, you You’re pretty sharp with a lot of the things you’re doing. What is the one area that you want to improve?

Greg Ott [23:36]
You know, I think it comes down to getting that right team in place. Some of the some of the hires, I’ve made, haven’t worked out. And that’s always tough. And, you know, trying to anticipate that capacity, one of the capacity, one of the things I try to challenge my nature is to challenge existing frameworks. So organizationally, people typically think about, you know, every functional silo, right? You’ve got marketing and sales and product engineering and finance. Well, that’s not the way business gets done. Business doesn’t get done in those streams of work, especially in a technology-based business where you’re building a user experience, and that user experience is how you generate revenue. So I tried, I challenged some of those paradigms, and sometimes it hasn’t worked out, right. I tried to bring someone who I think will, will adapt to a little less defined space to operate in and then it has worked out. So that’s been that’s been challenging. And because a leader I’m always going to be trying to focus on how to engage the best people and put them in the best place.

Gene Hammett [24:57]
Greg, I really appreciate you sharing some of these things. You’re struggling with as a leader here. We didn’t really crack the nut on what was really doing get in the heart of it. But I think what you’ve talked about was letting others know they’re listening. And they’re not alone. Because what you’re struggling with, you know, finding the energy finding that extra time and the constant juggling and struggle that you have to fit it all in and, and to hire the right people and develop them and exit, right people, all of this stuff really is just the big, big parts of being a CEO that aren’t comfortable. It’s not all we made, you know, the list, and everything’s great. But you really are working through problems. So I appreciate you sharing that with us today and letting people know that they’re not alone. So thank you for being here. Greg.

Greg Ott [25:42]
I pleasure, I think, to your question, and sometimes I asked myself, I got I’ve got a whiteboard right here and went back there. I can start with like, trying to put like, the one big thing. And it’s like, Okay, well, 1,2…1,2,3…2,2,3,4. And so I think as a CEO, we’re all kind of challenged with that. There’s so many things and you as a leader, right? you challenge yourself on so many things that you want to be better at or help more, I tend to think of a leader as a coach on West Coast. So I leaned into the steep curve, kind of Gregg Popovich model, depending on your term, but in that in that aspect. Use it is about energy and focus on the team and, and and then your your strengths. And what else can I be doing? How are bringing the right team players and that list just grows and grows and grows.

Gene Hammett [26:36]
Perfect. Thanks for being here.

Gene Hammett [26:38]
Let me wrap up today’s episode for those listening in. You know, we’ve been looking at this optimize your time. delegation is a big part of that. But you also have to trust yourself enough to delegate to the right people and develop them and coach them just like Greg said, and then some of the struggles that Greg opened up with us are just really important for you to understand that you’re not alone. If you are leveling up if you’re really focusing on your own growth. And you wouldn’t need someone to help you challenge that thinking and help you really discover what’s really getting in the middle of it, how you sabotage yourself. Make sure you reach out to me genehammett.com. You can have a quick conversation to understand what it is I do this all the time day in and day out. love to help you. If you’re listening and you’ve listened this far. I’m here to serve you. So he’s got a genehammett.com I’d love to have that conversation. Thanks for listening, and you think of growth and you think of leadership. Think of Growth Think Tank, as always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Growth Think Tank with Greg Ott



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