How many business owners do you know who can truly disconnect from their businesses? In this day and age, it’s very difficult. Technology allows us to get more done in less time but has also increased the pace of business and feeling that we need to be always available. On top of this, many of us are “control freaks” who have trouble letting others get things done. We know what needs to be done, how it needs to be done and that we can do it faster, better, smarter than others and so we keep control — even with full knowledge that this approach will not help the business to grow but rather thwart that effort. What does it take to let go and give the business a chance to blossom?
Confidence. You must have confidence in your team to handle the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you’re always solving the problems, the team won’t learn to do so themselves. Neither you nor they will have the confidence to allow them to take on more. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy that keeps you constantly at the center of the business and often encourages strong players on your team to leave. You need to have the confidence to step away, even a small bit at a time, and encourage others to take on more. A way to start this transition and delegation is to ensure you’re not solving the problems but helping them to do so. They will begin to learn how you think about the problem but come to the solution on their own. Also, begin to take one day per week (or better yet, one whole week) out of the office without checking in with the team but you must be sure to set clear rules as to who’s responsible for what while you’re away.
Prioritization. Work will always be there and more work will be there tomorrow and the next day and the next. There will never be enough hours in the day to get it all done. You must prioritize and get done what is your best and most important use to the company. Figure out what your role is in the business and focus on delegating other activities. We spend so much of our day doing things that others could do and would happily do if we had the confidence and prioritization to give them to someone else. If you focus on your highest impact to the business and prioritize those tasks, you’ll find that you’re more effective and the business is more successful. This is a tough challenge because we find ourselves doing a lot of small things that we “should” do as business owners. These small things take up a lot of time. You need to figure out what they are and recognize that the time it takes to train someone isn’t nearly the amount of time you spend on the item(s) day after day. The net value to the business will be positive very quickly. I have done a couple of interesting exercises in this area to help flesh out what I should be doing. One is “Love vs. Loathe” where you list what you love to do and loathe to do in your role. You can’t always get out of the “loathe” items but it’s a good exercise to see if you can get rid of most of those items. In fact, there may be someone in your office who “loves” what you “loathe”!
Boundaries. Setting clear boundaries where work “starts” and “stops” is essential to letting go. When I first started Equinox, I made a commitment that I would pick my kids up from school. I might work later in the day, but I would get to do the drive home with them or take them to activities. Later, I learned that I didn’t need to check emails after I departed for the day. I have a team of people who are just as capable as I am in addressing issues and can reach me if necessary. I stopped syncing my work email to my phone after 5:00 pm because all it took was that one email at 8:00 pm to stress me out and ruin my evening when there was absolutely nothing I could do about it until 8:00 am the next day.
Finding Other Interests. You must have other interests outside of your business that pull you away from work. It’s easy to spend the weekend answering emails, creating proposals, or doing other work. However, you should find alternate activities you enjoy and commit to them. Commitments outside of work give you an “excuse” to be unavailable and further force you to let go. If you have kids, they are a great reason to implement this tactic – their activities are good “excuse” as well to be unavailable.
I’ve worked on many of these over the years and can tell you that it does not happen overnight but the ability to not check in after hours, knowing that the problem or project will still be there in the morning is refreshing. Knowing that I can go to my kids’ activities without feeling I need to be checking in constantly makes me a better parent. Encouraging other members of my team to take on projects that they can do better than I or to solve problems together without me helps my business be stronger.