If you’re reading this, you just might be that founder, owner, and visionary who really struggles to let go. The company is your baby. You’ve had a hand in every aspect of it for years, and you don’t know how to feel comfortable unless you keep doing that. If that sounds like you (or the person you work for), don’t worry. You have plenty of company. And there’s hope.
Are You Getting In Your Own Way?
I recently had a client team finally open up with the owner about the impact her inability to let go was having on them and the company. They let her know that they truly believed her desire to let go was real. But they also let her know that her constant appearances in their respective doorways – always demanding a number or an explanation – was keeping them from doing their jobs, and therefore keeping them from delivering the growth and profit she wants.
As all of us do at one time or another, the owner was getting in her own way.
To her credit, she admitted that letting go is really hard for her because for the past 20 years she’s known every number and made every decision. She doesn’t know how to not do that.
What Information Do You Need To Let You Let Go?
The company’s weekly Scorecard gave Susan high-level data, but she wanted more detail about some things to make her feel comfortable about truly letting go.
To help her with this, we cleared some space on the whiteboard and began building what we called “Susan’s Let-Go List.” We just started asking her what information she needs to see and how often she needs to see it in order to feel confident that things are OK. When we were done, we had list of about 15 reports she needs to see and how often (weekly, monthly, etc.) she needs to see each one. It’s her newly-appointed Integrator’s job to make sure that happens.
Susan made an explicit promise to the team that if they get her that information on that schedule, and if the numbers are good, she’ll start letting go. Everyone knows she’ll break that promise a few times, but it’s getting better. And because she and her newly-appointed Integrator are having regular same-page meetings, she has a place to go for an answer when a number is off-track – other than straight into the office of the person who owns it. Disruptions are diminishing, and her team is able to stay focused on moving the company forward.
Letting Go Is A Journey
This kind of behavior change is a journey, not an event. No matter how much you want to, letting go really is hard for owners and visionaries. It won’t happen overnight, but a really good “Let Go List” will help you get started.