The moment we learn we’re having children, we do all we can to protect and nurture them. As they grow, we expend all our time, energy and effort into rearing them, investing in their future, developing their potential, and encouraging them to do their best to succeed. All these with the goal of teaching them to stand on their own and become independent; so that, one day, we can let them go. A thriving, separate entity that can survive on its own.
It’s exactly how we treat our own business.
The only way for it to grow, is for us to let it go.
Being a Hands-Off CEO is one of the hardest things we will have to do to propagate our business; but is of vital importance and is a necessary step that needs to be taken to move from start-up to global success.
When you’ve invested so much of yourself in your business, sacrificing a lot to get it off the ground, letting go will feel like you’ve cut off a part of yourself. But, if you’re busy managing clients, filling out orders, following up with suppliers, in addition to all the tasks needed for operations, where will you find the energy and time to grow? When will you see your family? Travel? Have a life outside of work?
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to hold on and micromanage every decision – after all, that’s what put you where you are now. But, if you continue doing so, it will also be what keeps you there. At a standstill.
For every company or business endeavor, there will inevitably come a point where – the more you hold on to it, the more you stunt its growth.
To become a Hands-Off CEO, there are some things you can do to grow your business even without you at the helm:
1. Have an expansion mindset.
Contraction mindset: No work => no pay.
If there’s a major event in your personal life that needs attending to, and you’re required to take a day off, you’ll have to close your business and lose your income for the day. Your absence means nothing gets done since no one is there to run things. This is the usual scenario for small family businesses, like having a laundromat or a convenience store.
Expansion mindset: No work => business as usual.
Expanding means delegating. Initially, this can be more stressful– the complexities of handing off responsibilities and duties can seem daunting, especially if you have no idea where to start. But, in the long run, it will make your life so much easier. You will have the time and energy to invest in other endeavors while possessing the peace of mind that your business is running smoothly.
2. Hire the right people.
Have the courage to hire the right people and pay them what they’re worth, all while ensuring there is balance and diversity in your workplace. Don’t hire a bunch of yes-men who will only echo your sentiments and do what you ask for by rote. It’s scary to think others won’t do what you’ve always done the way you’ve always done it, but there is excitement and learning in that, too. With a different perspective, they will be able to see things you may otherwise never see.
However, you need to make sure you hire the people you need at present. Looking to the future and hiring the people you anticipate you need then, will only guarantee they’re irrelevant to your present requirements, and they will be a bad hire.
3. Plan your exit methodically and strategically.
Handing off your business takes planning. You have to methodically examine all aspects of it and the processes you undergo for each. Identify which areas you take on more responsibilities for, and which rely on you the most.
This stage will take a lot of time and cannot be rushed.
You may need to redefine your system in order to tailor fit it for someone else. You and your team must communicate and work together. You must confide what you’re trying to accomplish, and the reasoning behind them. Encourage your team members to express their opinions and volunteer suggestions, which will allow you to bridge the gaps in the system and tool them with the conviction to do your work without you.
Take baby steps. Let go of the small processes first, ensuring that your team has a good handle on them before moving on to the bigger tasks. This way, you and your team will have confidence that they can do the job when you’re gone.
4. Anticipate and welcome mistakes.
“Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. ‘No,’ I replied. ‘I just spend $600,000 training him – why would I want somebody to hire his experience?” (Thomas John Watson Sr., IBM)
No process can be completely smooth until it’s put into place. Expect mistakes to happen, and that there will be steps you’ll need to rectify as you go through the system. Don’t go ballistic when failure happens. Welcome them.
Guaranteeing that the process is easily communicated from one person to another will necessitate a lot of correction. Make sure you get feedback from your team on what needs to be improved.
Set an example of owning up to your mistakes. Admitting that you’ve made them is the first step to ensuring that your team will feel comfortable enough to do the same. An open environment where mistakes are acknowledged and addressed before repercussions become catastrophes will result in a culture that sees failure as opportunities for learning and growth.
5. Enable and empower your employees.
Act like a mentor to your employees. Share what you’ve learned from your experiences, provide them with the tools they need to do the job you hired them for, and then do them the favor of stepping out of the way. Equip your employees with everything they need to do the job in your absence, and empower them to make decisions on your behalf.
The worst thing you can do is hire the right people but stand in the way of their success. If you hire someone great, but still continue doing their job for them, you are encouraging them to look for a job elsewhere. Nothing engages people more than knowing they’re performing a job well and that they have opportunities for growth.
Tell them clearly what your expectations are, and how you will measure their success. This way, they will also take a more proactive approach to their professional development, and be able to keep track of their progress and performance.
Reassure your team that you have faith in their abilities. Thank them for doing all they can to make this hand-off a success, and let them know you support their decisions and its outcomes.
6. Let go.
Having the right people who share your vision and to whom you will entrust your company is the first step to letting go. But only when you’ve equipped them with everything they need to do the job in your absence, expressed your faith in their abilities and showed them your support will they be empowered and possess the confidence to make choices and rise to challenges in your absence.
As entrepreneurs, we will find ourselves in the position of having to let go in order to grow, which will be a difficult, yet vital, process. Having some work-life balance and taking care of your psychological well-being will mean empowering others to make decisions you might not otherwise have made, and trusting them to make those decisions even though they are not you.
Hiring the right employees who share your vision, and to whom you will hand off your responsibilities will necessitate putting the right processes in place and releasing some of your control. This will ensure they are well-equipped with the proper tools to make decisions on your behalf. Empowering and enabling your team can only result in your business achieving greater heights than you could ever reach alone. So, trust your people, hand off, and let go.
“In every success story, you will find someone who has made a courageous decision.” (Peter F. Drucker)