Great Leaders Learn to Delegate

If you want to grow your business this year, give up control of day-to-day operational tasks.

After reading an eye-opening book–E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber–in spring 2008, I fired myself. The decision has allowed my company to flourish and grow. Here's what I mean.

The main message of E-Myth is that you should turn your company into a franchise–not literally, but in the sense that you make sure each and every job function is documented well enough that you can turn it over to someone else if you need to.

You should fire yourself, especially from the jobs that, with your handling them, stand in the way of your company's growth. Because of E-Myth's teachings, I have continued to fire myself over the years from the jobs that earlier on I thought were too important to give to others.

Before I read the book, I managed all projects at my company, User Insight, an innovation consultancy. I priced every project and assigned staff members to every single client engagement. This practice was, quite frankly, crazy and unnecessary because I am surrounded by a very capable group of people. All of them are highly educated and experienced, and they possess a strong sense of the work that needs to be accomplished. Still, I felt that I was the only one who could properly divvy out the projects. What's more, I was somehow afraid that handing over this important function would cause our company to lose two of our strongest competitive advantages–speed and agility. The truth was, I realize now: I didn't want to give up control.

By being unwilling to give up control, I was spending most of my time working in my business, not on it. In other words, I was in the weeds every day and I had no time left to think strategically. I was also keeping others on my team from learning how the company runs, and creating a vacuum of lost information as projects were passed from our sales team to the delivery team. On top of that, I found my time consumed in unfortunate ways. One year we signed a substantial amount of client work just before July 4th. I spent the entire holiday locked away in a dark dreary room working out project calendars while the rest of the family enjoyed the pool and each other.

Today, I'm proud to say that I have turned over project management to other leaders at User Insight. I can't even tell you which staff person is assigned to which project anymore. We also haven't lost any business, and we deliver work more effectively because the whole team now understands the rationale behind our various project proposals. We've also increased our project size and volume by 35% since I stepped out of the way.

Of course, I still know what's happening at the company. I can easily find answers if I need an update on a specific project. I gave up control, not knowledge.

So what about you? Are you working in your business, or on your business?

Fire yourself today by simply identifying something that you are doing that could be done better by someone else. Enjoy greater efficiency and effectiveness. Focus on what your company needs you to do: strategic direction and vision. Repeat!

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