Are you the entrepreneur with all the answers in your company? You know, the go-to person for decisions? Do you find yourself solving your employees’ problems vs empowering them to solve things for themselves? Are you making it too easy for them? You know, cutting off the crusts for them? How is this impacting your business?

If this is you, buckle up because this might be hard to digest. The truth is, over-protecting our employees limits our company’s growth. It builds a bottleneck in our business. How does this happen?

The Bottleneck

When we, as the owner, are the one with all the answers and making all the decisions, WE become the barrier to our organization’s growth. Yup. It’s us. WE effectively build a bottleneck because everything is reliant on us. There’s only so much we can do in a day; therefore, WE are the bottleneck.

So what can we do when we catch ourselves jumping in – cutting the crusts from their sandwich – doing for them what they are capable of doing for themselves? I encourage you to stop and ponder:

  • Why am I doing this?
  • Do I not trust my employee or is it because I can’t let go?
  • Is our business so complex only we can understand it?
  • Does it make me feel powerful or important when I handle the issues?
  • Does it make me feel like I am a hero and saving the day?

Whatever the reason, we need to understand the why behind our actions.

We must dig deep and find the answer so we can permanently solve the problem. Some people never figure this out. Others realize it but are unwilling to change. I am here to tell you, it is both possible and necessary if you want to become your best.

It Takes One to Know One

It’s fair to say I was a bottleneck at one point and it was messy. At the time, my company didn’t have a clearly defined structure nor distinct and documented processes. I was the one who had the knowledge of how things worked, so I kept dealing with things as they came up. But I could only solve so many issues in a day. So there I was: Chris, the bottleneck.

Why was my particular bottleneck happening? I had taught my team to come to me for the answers rather than empower them to come to me with solutions, that along with the lack of a documented system meant nothing was repeatable.

But what was my motivation? A combination of not feeling that I had taught my team well enough combined with the lack of solid systems and structure kept me from letting go. Honestly, there was a bit of ego involved too. You know, that feeling of “I got this!” I wanted to be a strong, confident leader. Which I erroneously thought meant that it was totally up to me to solve their problems. Rookie mistake! All this combined to make it hard for me to let go.

Solving My Own Bottleneck

Once I understood my motivation and took that critical step back to be able to make objective changes, we made the necessary changes. We added in the structure and processes we lacked. We addressed the people issues that were impacting my confidence in my team’s ability to make good decisions. We got the right people in the right seats.

Eventually, I confidently let go. I stopped over-protecting my team and I was able to encourage them to “go figure it out.” I learned to ask a simple question, “What do you think we should do?” It was all about getting them to think for themselves… cutting off their own crusts. And they were good at it.

Releasing The Pressure

So how does an entrepreneurial business owner discover if we simply need to let go, or if there is another underlying issue at play? We explore the situation and dig deep and ask ourselves these important questions.

  • Is it me? If the employees are capable, then it’s us who needs to change. Give them the tools to succeed, step back and let them cut their own crusts. Become the coach, not the hero and let them own it.
  • Is it them? Is our team member not capable of doing the work or making the important decisions? If this is the case, we don’t step back, we dig deeper until we find the root cause.
  • Is it too complex? If so, we need to focus on simplifying our business by implementing effective systems and processes.
  • Are we playing the wrong game? Are we chasing shiny stuff and doing something that is not within our core business? Is this why your team doesn’t have the answers?

Be brave. Dig and discover the truth – no matter how messy. It’s about being open, honest, and real with what is the cause of all of this. Once that’s figured out, then it’s time to look for options, decide what to do about it and take action!

If you’ve got the right people, I encourage you to give them the knife. Empower them to cut the crusts off their own sandwiches, if they choose to. Don’t be the bottleneck. Ease the pressure on yourself. Release the energy and talent of your team so your business can not only grow but thrive.

Next Steps:

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