As an entrepreneur, your business likely started out with very few team members. In fact, maybe it was just you, running every aspect of the business and doing every job all by yourself. That’s certainly not uncommon for many entrepreneurs. But eventually, your business grows, and that growth can present new challenges: there’s too much work for you to keep up with, and you have to recruit help. You have to hand over aspects of your business to others and trust that they will be able to handle them, even if they may not make all of the same choices you would or utilize the same methods as you.
The transition and changing role of an entrepreneur that comes with business growth can be difficult for many. It’s not just a matter of training or finding the right people to hire, either. It’s a matter of letting go of a mindset that holds many business owners back, one that I believe is among the top myths about owning a business: the mindset that if you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself.
What’s wrong with doing it all yourself?
The problem with this mindset is that it can turn you into a control freak, and you may not even realize when it’s happening to you. Maybe you’re running a company with a good number of employees who handle the majority of the tasks, but you’re still heavily involved in the company. After all, you have a lot of financial responsibility—doesn’t it make sense for you to keep your finger on the pulse of everything going on within your business?
Yes and no. While it’s a good idea to know what’s going on within your business, eventually you have to relinquish control and let people who are better at specific roles than you are do their jobs. That lightbulb moment was what caused me to grow as a leader.
This problem manifests in both leadership and your daily task list. Sometimes business owners who have already managed to hand off the majority of the tasks to their team members still feel a strong need for control and that can manifest in their leadership style. This can lead to micromanagement, which causes a multitude of problems. It does not allow your team to take ownership over their tasks and can lead to bitterness on the part of employees. It can also be distracting, and they may feel the need to look busy at all times rather than focusing on their work. Furthermore, it can limit innovation, creative solutions, and productivity.
When team members are allowed to work in the ways that are most effective for them and own their expertise, they are able to shine and bring their best work to the table. You hired each person because of their skills in a certain area, and in many cases they may be better at what they do than you are because they specialize in it. Hovering over their shoulders or trying to get them to do something the same way you would do it won’t create better results. Instead, provide them with the training they need, set clear expectations, and allow them to do their best within those parameters. When you give people ownership over their jobs and allow them to be responsible for their own tasks and problem solving, you might be surprised at creative solutions and positive results that arise.
Why can’t I do it all?
On a more personal level, the mindset of needing control as a business owner can negatively influence your own workday, your life, and even your business success. If you’re anything like many of the entrepreneurs I know, your calendar and task list are always full. There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. You might get to the office before everyone else and stay late into the night after the rest of the team has left. This is certainly a common experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Not only do these kinds of long hours take a toll on your health both mentally and physically, but you’re missing out on important time with loved ones and much-needed rest that can help make you more effective in your job.
Many business owners take on more work than they need to, and it largely stems from the mindset of a need for control. They don’t believe anyone else can handle the tasks on their list. But I want to challenge this mindset. As the creative head of your business, your time is more valuable than anyone else’s. What are the activities in your day that bring the most value to your business? What tasks must be accomplished by you, and nobody else? Try to whittle this list down to less than six things, ideally three. Then, find a way to designate everything. Yes, it might be difficult, but you may be surprised to find that some tasks you thought had to be accomplished by you could actually be done by another member of your team.
For example, eliminate any unnecessary meetings from your schedule. Unless your direct input is needed, someone else can give you their summary of the meeting. Empower your team to make decisions without you in their realms of expertise. If you’re being bogged down by administrative tasks, hire an executive assistant or even a virtual assistant. Anything that doesn’t require your level of expertise can and should be delegated.
By freeing up your schedule in this way, you won’t have to work the long-haul days that have kept you exhausted for so long. You’ll have more creative time to dedicate to the business, which will allow you to begin new initiatives and work toward new goals. Just think of what you could accomplish if you had several more hours every day and the energy to fill them with productivity—it is possible, but you must reduce your need for control over every aspect of your business.
Start by building a great culture among your team so they are empowered to take ownership over their roles, solve problems, and make decisions in their areas of expertise. Set them up for success in this way, then get out of the way and let them do their jobs. It’s really true: you can take a step back and watch the business grow.
The photo above shows my leadership team: capable, smart, more expertise in their area than I have, and driven. Together, we accomplish more than I was able to do on my own. I’m not saying it was easy giving up control of my business, but I am so grateful I followed my business coach’s advice. I have watched this group grow the business, develop foundational structure that has enabled scalable growth, and teach me a thing or two along the way. Do I ever regret letting go of control? Never. I did it, and so can you!