As an entrepreneur with a growing business, you’re probably clamoring to maintain control as things change — I know I did this with my own young company. Unfortunately, in my quest for control, I was actually doing my business and team a disservice.
Get out of your own way
One of our core values is to elevate everyone around you. Yet even as a co-founder I was stuck in the weeds and getting in the way of the talented people we hired to get the job done.
Around the same time I struggled with this problem, I was given a few pointers from a golf coach on my backswing. I used to tense up, grip the club too tightly, and slice the ball off course. He instructed me to loosen my grip and not tense up in that critical moment — leading to a better and more consistent shot. It’s counterintuitive, but this advice improved my golf swing and when applied to business, offered me a more effective way to work with my team.
So here’s a look at five rules I’ve set for myself as I set out to really put this into practice as a business owner.
1. Don’t attempt to fix everything at once
As a founder or leader in your industry, you’re likely overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of problems that exist — I certainly was. Personally, I pointed out problems left and right. This distracted my team and prevented them from focusing on what really mattered. I was trying to fix everything at once, instead of fixing one issue at a time.
2. Learn what is urgent vs. what is important
When I get overwhelmed, I use the Eisenhower Box to ask myself: What is both urgent and important? I focus on that one thing and rally the team around it. This provides clarity and eliminates the cost of confusing priorities and context switching.
Eisenhower categorized his work in degrees of urgency and importance. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to focus on what’s directly in front of you. The urgent demands your immediate attention. For me, completing urgent task gives me a mental high and feeling of accomplishment. In contrast, important items might not always be in front of you, but those tasks contribute to longer-term goals and aspirations.
If you always focus on the urgent, you won’t have time to address the important. Eisenhower proposes that you first work on tasks that are both urgent and important, delegate the urgent but unimportant ones, and schedule time to work on the important but not urgent tasks.
3. Don’t fix everything yourself
Take the time to explain why something must be fixed and empower someone else to fix it. You shouldn’t do it yourself because you’ve hired talented people to solve these challenges – specifically so you can focus on other things.
Additionally, your team becomes better and more capable when you’re not the only one solving problems. You can damage team relationships when you solve problems for them. It sends a message that you don’t trust them to get the job done.
4. Focus on results, not methodology
Now that you’ve empowered someone to get it done, don’t micromanage how they do it. Focus on the results, not the methodology. People with different backgrounds and perspectives approach problems differently. That is what makes working with others great.
Clearly communicate what you want and get out of the way. A team member may solve the problem in a new way and you could learn something — their approach may even be more effective.
5. Be compassionate
I’m a software engineer by trade, and the mechanics and immediate gratification of writing code is satisfying. You give the computer an instruction and it does what you want or throws an error. The immediate feedback allows you to change your approach. So it was an adjustment when I started to lead people. Feedback will not be immediate, and screwing up is a certainty.
Be patient with yourself. It’s a slow process, and things won’t always be clear. As well, be compassionate with your team. I always try to share that I’m learning and that I’m also making mistakes. This helps open up a dialog on how we can communicate better in the future and do better moving forward.
This article has been edited.
Co-Founder of Launch Academy, Dan Pickett has been building web applications and technology teams since 2004. He has a passion for mentoring and educating aspiring developers.