Succeed By Giving Up Control

It’s a tough situation to be in when you know that there’s always something that you can do better, you can catch all the details or you just simply know more. You find yourself drowned with work and lack of time to do more important things. Most perfectionists feel that way but perhaps everything would work out better if we could just seat back, relax and ‘let go’.

If you’re a self-confessed workaholic like me (though I prefer to call it passion), you will find the description above very familiar. When I first started the company M.SaaS, a CRM consulting company, I was obsessed with the details and took on nearly every task myself to work on every single detail. I put up our first temporary website, I personally wrote all our project implementation documentations templates, created our first couple of banner posters for use in a conference and came up with all the marketing ideas. It got worse from there as I was juggling all those tasks with daily activities of cold-calling, prospecting, demo presentations and to top it off conducting our first project implementation.

I even had to supervise my sales personnel when they were meeting the clients for the first time to ensure that the right message was presented and no misrepresentation of the company image or the product happened.

I’m sure all the above sounds like it’s just part of the package of being an entrepreneur and we should just suck it up right?  Wrong!

Being a good leader and successful entrepreneur is all part of knowing your own limits, delegation, letting go of control and trusting the right people to do what is right. Sounds easy, right? We always read and hear of this advice but how many of us really have put it into use? This is especially hard for people who have been working individually, are known as perfectionists or people who have had a string of successful accomplishments.

It’s hard to acknowledge that every person has its own limitations and weaknesses and even if you’re Superman (replace with super-hero of your choice) or feel like one, there’s always a limit on how much you can accomplish as an individual. We will always be limited by time, knowledge and experience.

It may be nerve wrecking to let go of control and have trust in your colleagues but that’s precisely what you’re supposed to do as a leader. Let me put this into perspective, often times top management are highly paid and sought after for their insight, experience and decision making process. Do you think they are paid to repeat what other people can do? Nope, absolutely not!

The reason there are seniors, managers and directors is because they are supposed to steer the company in the right direction, make the hard decisions, and supervise to ensure everything is going according to plan, and when necessary, step in to rectify the situation. They may have the expertise to actually ‘get their hands dirty’ if required but the true value here is coordinating the whole team with the in depth knowledge of every intricate detail, and aligning them with the overall business objective. It’s definitely not making a sale, fixing the programming bug or being a project manager.

Do not misunderstand me that I am advocating MBA types with no relevant hands-on experience of the industry or job. What I am merely pointing out is that you may have started as a programmer, junior chef, sales personnel or whichever position that you are in. But now, when you are leading a team, your value add is beyond your initial job scope. Your true value here is getting the whole team to work together to achieve an objective.

So what do we do to become a more effective leader and to better learn to let go of control? The simple answer here is delegation, but the difficult part is the amount of delegation that you are willing to apply. You can have either of the following

  1. Auto-Pilot Mode where you give required instructions and pray it all works out. This works in a car and plane, but probably a bad idea in business. Then again, there are always people to prove us wrong like how Richard Branson allows his business managers to have a free-hand in running the business, but even that comes with some amount of checks. I’m not so sure if I have ever come across this but maybe this approach is good when results and goals are fairly vague like in a new venture or brainstorming session.
  2. Semi-Auto Mode where you provide relevant and precise expectations of what is required, then review the results on a periodical basis to provide feedback and checks on the end-results. Probably the most typical approach used by most people and in my experience offers a good balance between maintaining some form of control and allowing the person who is delegated the task to be creative in how to accomplish the desired goal(s).
  3. User –Manual Mode. This is the method where you provide the person whom you are delegating a task to with step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish it, and with clear detailed explanations of what to expect and what to do if something fails. Think of this as a fool-proof method to delegate tasks in a precise manner. Usually works well in routine and mundane tasks with lots of repetition to be expected (i.e. how to fill out a sales order form or processing a warranty item)

The above delegation methods are just some of the more common ones and you will definitely not be surprised to see them being mixed up for optimum results.

Succeed By Giving Up Control

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