I was recently speaking with a new business coaching client who was struggling with time management. She was consistently working 70- to 80-hour weeks and she hasn’t had a vacation in years. And when I pushed her for more information, she reluctantly began to tell a tale of her own controlling behaviors. She really struggled with delegating tasks to her team and had a past history of delegating tasks that ultimately turned out to be failures. When we pushed a little more, we realized that one of the reasons that all of her past delegations failed was because she was keeping vital business information from her team members, preventing them from being able to do a good job.
It’s something not a lot of business owners talk about, but it happens more often than you think. This is the idea that a business owner or key team member will guard their institutional knowledge out of a misguided belief that it creates job security. And here’s what’s interesting. When you are overly cautious about training other people, and cross-training and systematizing and documenting, in the short run, that does give you a sense that you have a greater degree of control about your future. You feel needed when they have to come to you for the bank information or to sign off on every single sales contract. But in the medium and long run it ends up being a real risk for you as a business owner.
You can’t take a vacation if your team doesn’t have all the information they need to run the company while you are away. If you leave the office for any time for a personal matter and come back, you are likely to come back to chaos. Plus, if you do it that way, you’re role modeling to all the other people that you manage and lead that they should do the same, which is only going to make it really difficult for your business to grow and you will have employee turnovers.
So what should you be focusing on instead? Strategic depth. This is the idea that the more people in the company that know how to do a certain task or project, the easier it becomes to run your business and grow overtime. The less the business has to rely on you, or any specific person, the more likely you are to be able to scale and meet increased demand from your clients or customers. So not only will learning to let go help you grow, but you will also significantly decrease the amount of stress and pressure that you are under as a leader and a team as a whole.
We set our new client on a path to start letting go when it comes to her management team. She began writing down all the times that her team came to her because of her need for secretism. She now has a goal to start sharing and training her team to do more when she is away, which should make a huge impact in her business as a whole.