Content was originally published on Inc.com on September 12, 2019.
Owning a business has its benefits. You get to create something that brings value or purpose to the world, you get to pave your own way and do it on your own terms. For most outsiders, entrepreneurship looks pretty enticing.
But there is a dark side. One that we don’t talk about very often, but I see it’s effects every single day as a business coach.
One of the business owners I coach runs a successful multimillion-dollar outdoor advertising company, responsible for over ten thousand outdoor signs. When I first started working with him he was getting up at 4 am every day to take calls from his field teams to make sure that if they had any problems with the large signs they were going to install that day, he could solve them.
While the field teams needed to get out and do their installations that early to avoid traffic, there was really no reason for the owner to field those early morning calls.
Yet he did so, happily. But why?
“My wife used to ask me why I didn’t just let my team handle that stuff,” he admitted. “What I didn’t want to tell her–heck, I didn’t even want to admit to myself–was that I liked the feeling of being in control that those 4 am calls gave me.”
He was addicted to the feeling of swooping in on a white horse and saving the day.
Does your addiction for control cause you to micromanage your team and stop you from growing their capacity to “own” more functional areas of your business?
Is your addiction to control causing you to spend time away from your friends and family, simply because the idea of taking time off scares you?
The high that you get from being the only one to solve an issue or put out a business fire is an intoxicating one. But can really harm your ability to grow as a leader and a business owner.
Breaking the Chain of Control Addiction
The first step to breaking your addiction to control is to admit that there is a problem. If you’re being honest with yourself, wouldn’t you have to admit that at least a small part of why you struggle letting go to members of your team is that you hate that feeling of being out of control, and that you get something out of being needed? Or have you built a fragile team that is overly reliant on the talent, expertise, and relationships of one or two key players?
Which brings us to the second step to breaking the cycle, which is to build strategic depth.
Part of what keeps you locked down by the chain of control is the curse of your own competency. You are likely exceedingly good at what you do. Over the course of your career, you’ve become one of those competent people who just gets stuff done. When you watch a member of your staff struggle to get a result, you know you could do better, and it’s excruciating to hold yourself back. So you must invest your time into training your team on the proper procedures and systems in order to do things in your absence.
Once you build up competency within your team, it will be much easier to let go and wean yourself off of the high you feel by swooping in on a white horse and saving the day.