Being a founder often goes hand-in-hand with being a “Type-A” personality: competitive and impatient with a need for control. It can be difficult to give up any measure of that control, even when it means running yourself into the ground and diminishing your productivity and efficiency in the process. After all, who could do things up to our standard, in our way? Better to just handle things ourselves and rest a bit more comfortable knowing that they’re done exactly as we want them, even if that means less rest.
Operating a business of any size requires outside help, and yet there are so many founders and CEOs unwilling and unable to relinquish more than a sliver of control, for fear of…what, exactly? Fear that your business is held together by the sheer force of your will and any hands-on control other than your own will lead to its demise? A belief that only you can do certain tasks in a way that’s acceptable? There are of course plenty of responsibilities that fall solely upon the shoulders of the founder, but there are others that can be performed by any number of people on your team if you can let go just a little bit.
Delegating tasks can be a bit of a balancing act, especially in the early days of your business. With fewer people, resources, and projects in the works, it’s easy to keep a hand on every task, if not working those projects entirely by yourself. It’s an instance of necessity meeting personal inclination: even with more people at your disposal, odds are you’d choose to handle all of the important chores yourself.
With any luck, though, your business will grow, and with it the demands on your time and attention. Suddenly there are a handful of projects going at the same time and only one of you to try and manage all of it. It’s an untenable situation to try and retain maximum control over everything unless you want to grind your workforce to a halt. Eventually, you’re going to have to allow others to do the things you would choose to do yourself if you had the time and energy.
It’s an anxiety-inducing situation for many founders, but it doesn’t have to be. The need to be in control is innate but we can work to improve our instinctual behavior and move towards a more healthy and balanced approach. Giving up control might cause some stress, but is it any less than the stress of putting so much work upon ourselves, probably unnecessarily? It will undoubtedly take some getting used to, but in time you’ll probably get better at letting go and trusting others.
Speaking of trust, why not trust the people we’ve hired for key positions handle some of the responsibilities you need to pass off onto others? Every work dynamic is different, and perhaps you haven’t spent enough time working together to establish a level of trust you feel is necessary for that kind of delegation, but for teams that have built rapport and faith in one another, you should feel confident that the people you’ve hired can do what you ask of them, and in the manner you want it done, provided that it is within their skillset. After all, the reason you assembled a team in the first place is to fill in the gaps in your own skills and to handle the workload you can’t manage on your own.
Perhaps the greatest test of your ability to delegate is the early instances when people fall short of the mark set for the work you’ve handed off. The initial reaction is likely that you were right to want to keep control, and now you need to retake that control to make sure that the work is done correctly. But ask how often you’ve made errors, and how likely you would be to make that same mistake if you were to overburden yourself once again. There has to be room for some mistakes within any company, provided that they can be teaching moments.
Now more than ever, we must rely on the help of others to get by. The shutdowns have thrown us all for a loop, and many entrepreneurs are trying to balance their work with the needs and demands of families and childcare, and which in the middle of a pandemic is harder than we could have ever imagined. It’s ok to lean on others to get through these trying times.
It might not be possible to divorce yourself entirely from the need for control and delegating work and that might be something done through gritted teeth for the entirety of your time as a leader. But if you can find a way to let go, at least a little, you might find that relying on others isn’t as hard as you might have once thought. #onwards.