In 2003 I had a booming media buying agency. Business seemed to be rolling in faster than I could keep up with. I was a one-woman band for the first few years and loved every part of the business. But now I was drowning! I knew I needed some help, but wasn’t sure what kind or how much. I had to do SOMETHING!
I hired 2 people – one a second-in-command (now I would call that an Online Business Manager) who took on as much as I could give her. The second was a part-time admin who dealt with invoicing and various back-end details.
After defining their roles and training each of them (which took a bit of time!), I took a step back and realized that a huge amount of work had been shifted from my desk to theirs. That was just what I wanted, but what I didn’t expect was how I was going to feel about it.
I would go home at night thinking:
“If I’m no longer the one DOING all the work – then what value am I bringing to the business? What am I going to do now?”
It was a major identity crisis for me! I had spent the past 3 years of my business as the DOER. It was what I was good at, and I loved it – perhaps too much, which was why I was struggling now. It was what people paid me for. It was the place I knew best and felt the most comfortable.
And suddenly here I was – less doing on my plate and feeling like I wanted to take it all back because I didn’t know what else to do with myself!
Thankfully I had a great coach at the time who walked me through this and helped me to redefine my identity from WORKER-BEE to LEADER. It was a process to realize that I could still provide huge value by sharing my knowledge and expertise with my staff instead of being the person doing the work.
I find that when people struggle with delegation it can be based on a number of different things, but is often based on an underlying fear of losing their identity. If they aren’t careful, entrepreneurs can default to ‘taking it all back’ simply to hold on to that comfort zone.
If you are suffering from the same issue, here are some ideas:
- Notice it – We can’t change that which we can’t see!
- Honor it – Your identity has been the foundation of your success to date and it deserves to be honored! Also acknowledge the amount of expertise that got you here.
- Redefine it – What new identity will serve the next level of your growth? Maybe it’s the shift from DOER to ADVISOR (like it was for me.) Maybe it is something else.
- Shift it – This is key! Operate as though the new identity is in place. Make decisions from the position of being a leader. Spend your time in that new identity. It will probably be really uncomfortable to make this shift and the lure of going back to your old identity may be strong, but the only way to make the change is to stay in that mindset until your new identity becomes your norm. And it will happen!
Make no mistake, being a leader requires a completely different skill set than you have been relying on up to now. It may help you to hire a coach for this process. Or perhaps consider enrolling in leadership training, to build your new skills and your confidence.
Realize that this transformation will not happen overnight. It’s like any muscle that needs to be strengthened – It will get stronger if you keep using it.
I can relate. When I first hired a VA (virtual assistant) years ago, my coach said I HAD to hand over my calendar to her and let her manage it. NOOOO! That’s MY time. But once I finally let go, it was a huge relief to be free from all the back and forth “Will Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. work? How about Thursday at 10:00 a.m.?” that drove me bonkers. That freed me up to do more valuable work!
So true. Letting go can be a tough one!