Bottom line up front — if you can’t take a month off without your business or team falling apart, you don’t have a business and you don’t have a team.
“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”
– John C. Maxwell
I get it, you’re the brains and the talent behind your line of business. You developed your product or service offering. You’re the face of your consulting work and the deliverables have your mark on them and are better for it. The demand is all about you and what you specifically bring to the table for your customers and clients.
Your team is vital — you don’t discount that. They support every aspect of what you do and without them success would be harder. But, let’s face it, they aren’t you.
I’ve suffered from this condition to varying degrees as well. I’m good at what I do and others do it differently. Letting go is hard. There is a fear that quality will suffer — that’s partially our ego getting in the way. The other part is it’s probably true, but that’s the constraint, isn’t it?
The end result? We work harder than we need to, our team doesn’t grow, and we never escape this self-imposed cage. We are never able to scale. Growth is inhibited.
There is good news. You can break free of these chains.
Let’s explore some ideas for how you can take your business to the next level and beyond by getting out of the way.
You’re reluctant to give autonomy to others or to remove yourself from an engagement because you’re afraid of what would happen, or not happen, if you did.
Perhaps you have good reason to be worried — your team isn’t capable of delivering as you would. Perhaps they are and you just haven’t given them the opportunity to prove it. How would you ever know? How can you take that risk?
It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a common trap leaders get snared in that feels like a catch-22. You know you need to scale, but you can’t see how you can afford to take the time or risk to empower and delegate.
But empower and delegate you must if you want to survive.
Many leaders under-delegate because it hurts. You know your business better than anyone. When your team struggles, it is hard to resist jumping in to do it for them. This defeats the purpose of delegating and can lead to you deciding it’s easier to not delegate at all.
“If somebody can do something 80 percent as good as you think you would have done it yourself, then you’ve got to let it go.” — Sara Blakely
In order for your team to improve, you need to stand back and watch them struggle. They will make mistakes and take longer than you would. It will drive you crazy, but letting them do so is the only path to strengthening and scaling your capacity.
If delegating makes you nervous, start with something relatively small. What won’t end the world for you if it isn’t done as well as you’d do it? What wouldn’t cause too much extra work to fix if it breaks? Don’t say “nothing.”
Pick something and let it go. As trust is earned on the little things, you’ll feel more comfortable delegating more important things. The more you can delegate, the more value you can deliver.
But here’s the caveat — be clear about the task and the desired outcome without telling them how to do it.
“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”
– General George S. Patton
Delegating does no one any good if you’re just going to define every detail about how the work should be done and then hawk over the execution. You’re not freed up and your people won’t grow.
Empowering people is about giving them the problem to solve, or the desired outcome to achieve, and allowing them the freedom to find their own way to success.
Each person will need a different level of guidance and coaching, but each much be given some level of autonomy to tackle the problem in their own way. Who knows, they may do it better than you if you give them the chance.
And yes, you want your people to do it better than you. You want to hire and cultivate smarter and more capable people than you. This allows you to move away from the grind of execution and into strategic management.
The caveat here is to not be so empowering that you’re vague on the task. You need to set clear objectives and clearly define the problem, otherwise, you may end up spending more time managing the chaos that occurs when your people are trying to guess what you need. The added benefit of clarifying the task for your team is that it helps you better organize your own thoughts around the assignment.
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”
– Bill Gates
You’re so integral to the success of your business or team that you cannot see a way to transition out of the trenches.
So, start small.
You must delegate. Start with smaller handoffs to ease your way into trusting the process and growing your team.
Handoff the what, but let go of the how.
Be clear on the objective, but empower your team to find the way. You may just be surprised at the results.
Only then can you leverage the expertise and efforts of the smart people on your team. Share in the accountability for outcomes and have the time to enjoy the fruits of your joint success.
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