Have you ever known an entrepreneur or leader that has struggled to ‘let go’ or in other words, struggled to delegate key responsibilities?  The story typically sounds like, “No one can do it as well as I can.  What happens if they miss something?  It will take me less time to just do it myself.” Well, I have walked in those shoes and there is hope!

After 20+ years of leading the company I founded, I have stepped away from my active role and now work only 3 hours per month there. I am often asked, “How do you let go and still be able to sleep at night?”

The short answer is to engage your people and implement a strong, robust system.  Easy, right? Haha! It didn’t happen overnight, nor all at once.  

You see, at one point I realized I was the lynch pin in my business. If you removed me, the business wouldn’t have survived. It wasn’t a business, it was a job and I was tied to it! I knew I needed to change that, because I wanted to pursue other passions at some point in the future.

Here are a few of the many lessons I learned along the way to engage my people and ultimately, my confidence in those people.

  1. Engage your best people in the BIG discussions. Big, real discussions like, “Why do we exist?” and “Where are we going?” Give them permission to speak openly and honestly sharing their ideas and feedback to create a shared vision.

Initially, I felt compelled as a leader to set the vision for the organization. I must admit, it was daunting at times and I felt alone. I felt this pressure constantly and thought I did it well some days, not so well other days.  

As an entrepreneur, my business was my baby and I knew how I wanted that baby to grow. For me, the big first step was finally opening up the BIG discussion about setting the vision with my key employee, let’s call him Mark.  This meant, asking Mark for his feedback – without limitations.

Yikes! Here was my passion out in the open. Would we be on the same page? Have I been way off track? Would he call my “baby” ugly? I realized I needed to deal with this head trash in order to get my business to the next level.

So, I realized I needed to meet with Mark and have those BIG discussions about our company vision. It was my critical first step in letting go. I had to take the leap and go for it!

  1. Listen actively and with an open heart. Be vulnerable enough to truly hear what is being said.

Admittedly, I had never actually asked Mark if he believed in our passion/vision; it hadn’t occurred to me to ask. It was one of the mistakes I made along the way, no doubt. It turned out he actually LOVED our vision and was grateful to be able to contribute, no holds barred, to that vision.  Wow, did that feel great!

Mark felt empowered to contribute more because I’d opened up and allowed him in. I discovered, too, that I didn’t need to have all the answers. It was a liberating experience for me and actually allowed my creative juices to ‘power up’ even more than normal. Plus, once I opened up with Mark I had a new ally and avenue of discovery to find some answers.

  1. Make changes, if necessary. Be willing to implement what you just learned.

Better still because I listened and acted, I built trust and understanding between myself and Mark. He knew that what he said mattered, and I found out he truly “got” what we were doing.  Ultimately, it turned  “my” vision, into “OUR” vision. A subtle, yet massive transition!

You see, “OUR” vision has become vital now that I am not there.  He is leading the team in a vision he feels engaged with because he helped create it. I feel confident he is still fighting hard to achieve the vision and even put his own stamp on the renewed version.

These 3 lessons contributed to giving me confidence in myself and my key people, which yes, helps me sleep better at night. When I was ready to transition out of my active role, I knew I had a great leader ready to take over the reins.

The second point to sleeping well was to implement a strong, robust system.  I will talk about how I implemented EOS™ in my company in future posts.

So if you’re trying to let go AND still sleep well, I suggest you give of yourself first.  You have to make the first step to be open with your key people, even with cherished items like your vision for the company. Openness leads to engagement.

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