Entrepreneurs frequently find themselves to be “the hub of the wheel” – the center of activity and decision-making. This can be true whether they have 5 people or 50 people on payroll or under contract. The bigger the company, the more this hurts on many levels.
I spoke with a prospective client recently who suggested we reconnect later this year. He is extremely busy, is growing the business and wants to be hands-on with new clients and new products. That could be a good thing – the CEO needs to be visible, needs to stay in touch – or it could be too much of a good thing. The same CEO has canceled several scheduled appointments and failed to respond to several calls and emails – that he requested I make. Time is his recurring challenge, yet that is true for every busy person – and all of my clients are busy. What’s different about him? And let’s stipulate that this is someone who made it clear he wants to spend more time with me. He just keeps finding that impossible, given the other demands on his time.
I know, from my own leadership experience in the for-profit and non-profit sector, that it is easy to fall into this trap. Sometimes it was because I wanted to be the hero and get the credit, delivering the great results from conception to realization. Sometimes it was because it was fun, or high profile, or rewarding. Sometimes it was because it “took less time than explaining it” to someone who would otherwise never get it right otherwise. Sometimes I was best suited to it, because I knew the most about it. Lots of reasons, ranging from selfish to selfless – all flawed in the context of a growing organization.
You – CEO, executive director, owner, president, whatever – cannot be the bottleneck. You have to take the time to teach others what you know, or hire people who know more about it than you do. You have to let others be the hero and get the credit – your job is to give credit, not jealously guard it. You have to let others share in the fun. You have to let others become engaged, and let them run with it when that happens. You have to give people decision-making authority to the same extent that you give them responsibility, if you really want them to take responsibility.
Your rewards are many. Time – to spend on strategy, on building relationships, on leadership, maybe – dare I say it? – maybe even on you and your family. Wealth – in the form of a growing enterprise that produces income when you’re not directly responsible, and that builds value that is not solely tied to your time and presence. Satisfaction – from creating and nurturing an organization where other people can grow and prosper, and from being a positive influence in the lives of others.
All from stepping back and taking the time to think about where you are going, being intentional about how you are getting there and letting others play important roles. Manage the business – better yet, lead the business; don’t let it manage you.