…delegate anything that is not in your innate talent wheelhouse. If it isn’t your superpower, let someone else, whose superpower it is, plan and run with it. This one is all about having A Players versus worker bees and trusting them to deliver. If you are clear on what done means then this should be a walk in the park to select the right person to see it come to fruition.
As part of my series about the “How To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Goldstein.
She is fondly known by her clients as the business doctor. She is founder and CEO of the award winning and globally recognized boutique business strategy consulting firm Golden Key Partnership, and has been helping business owners scale their businesses and teams more profitably and simply for close to 10 years.
Her superpower is acting as interim COO to help CEOs simply and effectively diagnose and treat the concentrated risks, friction points, and revenue leaks that can plague operations and teams, ultimately impacting sustainable and long term growth.
Working together with her clients, she helps businesses get off the hire/fire cycle, teams work more cohesively and efficiently together for maximum impact, and tune up operations to consistently raise the bottom line of the business. As a trusted advisor to CEOs, Lauren helps them create high performing teams and operations to help them have more time and freedom, make more money, enjoy their businesses again, and have a bigger impact with their customers.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Sure! My backstory is a bit unconventional but it dovetails into why my clients call me the “business doctor.” Prior to starting Golden Key Partnership, my degree was in cognitive neuroscience and I was working in the medical field at Children’s Colorado in Pediatric Neurology. I had been in the Pediatrics field for many years and was about to go down the very long road of becoming a doctor. I had not considered any other professional path until one day we had a 5-month-old baby come in with debilitating status epilepticus that we successfully treated and put on a treatment protocol for long term recovery, only to subsequently be told by the insurance company that they would not cover her continued treatment protocol. In his words, “the cost/benefit just wasn’t there to justify the expense.”
I remember this moment like it was yesterday. Everyone was devastated and in that moment I saw how little power doctors actually have to do what’s best for their patients. After looking down the rest of my years in medicine, I realized I couldn’t stay in a broken system like that. In that moment I decided to walk away from medicine and explore how I could make a bigger impact.
After I left the hospital life behind, I dove face first into professional development and hired some of the top professional coaches I could, including Tony Robbins. It was during this “soul searching” that I realized my superpower of strategic thinking and problem solving. I started to get told time and time again that I had such a unique way of seeing puzzle pieces that seemed unrelated and fitting them together to solve business bottlenecks and friction points in a really simple and efficient manner.
You see, in my mind, business strategy consulting really isn’t all that different from medicine. My clients come to me with symptoms and it’s my job to diagnose what the underlying issues are and formulate a treatment plan to get the business back to full strength and healthy growth.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Definitely. Looking back over the past almost 10 years I have been in business, I have to chuckle at how much “failing forward” I actually did in those first 5 years. It kind of felt like I was throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what stuck and feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere.
The story that sticks out the most for me is from about 4 years ago. We were in the middle of a record breaking year and I was probably the most unhappy I had ever been. I was burning the candle at both ends, hardly eating, and feeling like at any moment the wheels of my business were not only going to fall off, but spontaneously combust — and me right along with it. I remember sitting at my desk at 1 a.m. asking myself “what am I doing all this for?” It almost felt like when I was standing in the hospital seeing the dominos fall around me and feeling helpless and hopeless.
The truth is I was getting amazing results for my clients, making more money in one month than some make in a year, but feeling hollow. I have never felt more like giving up than in that moment. The reason I wanted to give up was surprising because it wasn’t that I was struggling, it was quite the opposite. I had more success than I could handle. I was drowning and I wasn’t sure I could survive.
I remember walking to my bathroom and looking in the mirror after splashing some water on my face and seeing my exhausted expression staring back at me thinking “there has to be a better way.” In that moment I made a silent commitment to myself and my clients to do better, be better, and find a way out of this burnout. The secret to getting myself out of this state was admitting I needed help. The next day I committed to 3 things over the coming weeks. I hired a business coach, I hired another team member, and I decided for ever more that I would take Saturdays off and completely digitally detox from tech and people.
That single decision to create a day where I didn’t have to be “on-call” and could recharge not only saved my business, but I think saved my life. I could not have continued on the road I was going. It wasn’t healthy or sustainable. What was even more shocking is that when I took that day for myself, my business exploded again; my happiness went up, I felt refreshed, and my clients felt it in our work together too.
I think that’s my biggest piece of advice when things feel hard — take a step back and create a boundary to prioritize yourself and your sanity.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I am not sure this is “funny” but it is probably the biggest lesson that I learned is: don’t spend time and resources on something that is not a proven or necessary concept. As a business strategist I am a master chess player and can almost immediately see 10 steps ahead and where the weak points in systems are, especially when it comes to software and processes.
Many years ago we were using a piece of software that in my opinion was half baked and I thought I could build a superior product with our Dev team and sell it. What I came to realize was that building software is an extremely expensive and labor intensive feat, but more than that, I didn’t know what I didn’t know about selling a SaaS product.
What I learned from this is that one should always explore both the market’s need for an item and their willingness to invest. Second, I should have sought out more people who had successfully done what I wanted to do to gain more perspective on what it would take, not just monetarily, but as a business. Last but not least, I learned that it is best to walk your plan out at least 10 steps to make sure that the road you are going down is actually getting you closer to your goals and not dressed up like progress but in reality is just a distraction. This “project” not only cost me a lot of money, but it cost a lot of time, and my main business actually lost a lot of momentum because I was trying to ride two horses with one arse.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What I have been told by our clients over the years that makes us so much different than other consulting firms is that we diagnose first and we don’t focus just on front line revenue, we look at profitability as a whole.
So often consultants are hired by business owners to “fix something” that the business owner thinks is broken or the root cause of the problems they are seeing. In theory this is a good strategy — bringing in an outside expert — but in practice it is a bad strategy to bring someone in to treat something that may not actually be the root problem. Let me elaborate on what I mean.
Most consultants come in to, let’s say “fix sales,” they might go down a marketing or sales rabbit hole without looking for other contraindications, this is a bad strategy.
Where we are vastly different is we take the chief complaint at face value and then do an extensive diagnostic “exam” of the business.
The reason we do this is, nine times out of ten the problem our client thinks they have is only a surface level symptom and is most often not only connected to many other parts of the business, but not the actual root cause.
We view businesses as holistic entities and the neural network of business operations connects it all. So if you don’t diagnose before you treat, chances are you used a bandaid where you should have performed surgery. That’s what makes us different — we specialize in finding that one thing that will make the most amount of difference long term through diagnoses.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I love this question! As I shared before, burnout almost took me out so I am a huge advocate for putting in a system to help prevent it. My best tips are:
- Make sure your contracts with clients are well defined. I have found in the past that “scope creep” was one of the biggest triggers for burnout for me and my team. It felt like a moving target that we could never hit. Of course, with time and expertise we were able to better spot burnout and nip it in the bud but in the beginning it was tough.
- Office hours. This may seem silly but I remember in the beginning when I was working from home that the line between life and work was really blurred. I ate at my desk during “lunch” and went “back to the office” after dinner sometimes till 1 or 2 in the morning and then got up and did it all over again. When I was in those dark days, I realized I needed to draw a line in the sand between personal and business hours. This was a game changer. Now I work standard hours and set the expectations with my clients, and my team, that anything after 6pm or on weekends won’t be responded to or dealt with until the next day. This really changed so much because it gave me space to breathe and made sure that everyone else also had that same space.
- Ask for help and be willing to give up control. This one is definitely a big one. I don’t think any of us like to admit that we need help or to give up the reins, but this is one of the single biggest things that helps me avoid burnout. Help comes in many forms. It could be a mentor, a partner, an employee, or even just a sympathetic ear — heck even just admitting that you need help takes the pressure off! As for giving up control I like to think of it like a bakery. Sometimes we don’t want to give up a piece of our pie right? Well, what if you think of it not as an individual pie you are giving up, but rather you own a bakery and you design the menu and then you can bake as many pies as you want! Control the things you truly love, that are fun and easy for you, and then figure out who can take ownership of the rest of the process. That is where the magic happens.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
The person I am most grateful to is my father. My Dad raised me to always question what was in front of me and never gave me the answers. Instead he gave me the tools of deductive reasoning and problem solving to not only solve the problem, but be creative in its solution. This is most likely why I am so good at what I do. This kind of thinking allows me to look at the giant puzzle of my client’s business and see not only what puzzle pieces go together, but which ones don’t fit, and which ones need to be taken out or added in.
In addition, he gave me my first consulting job in our family business. It was an amazing space to learn some great lessons, test my theories in real life, and develop new skills along the way. He is relentless in his support for me and continues to be a sounding board when I need to solve something in my own life or business.
For all of this and more, he truly is my hero.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Delegating effectively is a challenge for many leaders. Let’s put first things first. Can you help articulate to our readers a few reasons why delegating is such an important skill for a leader or a business owner to develop?
Definitely! The main reason this is so important is because, in general, the person who started the business is not the best equipped to run the business day to day. Most business owners started their business because they had a great idea or saw a need and their innovation is what caught fire. That innovative spark gets dimmed or burns out if they go from visionary to operator — and burned out entrepreneurs burn down their businesses. If you want to build a successful business, you have to have help, no one can do it alone.
In addition, it is important to point out that more often than not, you are not the expert that is needed in other areas of your business and if you try to be, you will end up being the bottleneck and sometimes the downfall of your business success. The magic of sustainable growth and scaling comes from each person doubling down on their strengths which complement other members of the team’s weaknesses. This symbiotic relationship is how businesses start to get traction and momentum to eventually quantum leap into sustainable success.
The bottom line is if a leader doesn’t develop this skill, not only will the success of the business be in jeopardy, but the chances of the business surviving past the magic number of 5 years declines exponentially. Once you have a proven process/product, you simply must find the right people to help you grow sustainably and get out of your own way.
Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?
The top reason, I believe, is fear. As I mentioned before, most people are hesitant to give away their secret pie recipe, but I have seen a bigger fear pop up and that is actually fear of success. I know that sounds silly but I have seen time and time again where business owners don’t delegate because they are uncomfortably comfortable. It is way scarier to grow their business into the unknown then it is to stay in their current comfy existence. The best antidotes for both of these is stepping it out into the future and going through the worst case scenario and best case scenario. It calms down the mind to see the two pathways and have the clarity on what you have to “give up” to get to the next level.
The second is control. This plays a little into the fear I mentioned before but this one is much more about feeling like if you own your 5 acres then you know what to expect and can plan for it because everything has to go through you. This is a false sense of security though, because what you don’t see happening is the leaks that you create become the cause of your bottlenecks. I have seen it time and time again with my business owner clients where they are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue and profitability because, as the bottleneck in the business, they are stopping the flow and creating a decreased capacity to deliver. The antidote to this is to get crystal clear on what your big 3 are — the three things that you are so insanely talented at (which you enjoy) that move the business forward. Once you have this you can look at all the bits and pieces that are left and see who needs to own them.
The third is lack of experience. This is probably my favorite because it is so simple. Most business owners are not taught how to hire, develop, or delegate a team. Also, most people are taught that you should have more people who can “wear multiple hats” than experts who are top in their area of genius. I spend quite a lot of time with my clients busting this myth. The simple truth is your business and your bottom line will grow far more simply, harmoniously, efficiently, and sustainably when you find the experts you need whose strengths complement your weaknesses. When you have A Players on your team, you are not dolling out tasks to them, you are riding shotgun with them as they roll out their plans to help you accomplish your business goals. One type of team can drain your time and revenue (generalized as worker bees) the other creates time and revenue.
In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?
The biggest one is clarity.
As they say, if you don’t know where you are going, how are you going to know when you arrive? This is as true in business as it is in life.
You need to first know exactly where the ship is headed. What is your vivid vision? What are the goals and milestones that your team is helping to build? Once you have the clarity of where you are going, those GPS coordinates are going to not only help you stay on track, but more effectively delegate and hire to help you arrive there in the most efficient manner.
The second part of this is the clarity around the roles you have on your team. Too often I see employee relationships with a company fall apart because of mismatched expectations and ambiguity around deliverables in the role. The more clear you can be about competencies and accountabilities for the role the higher you and your employees chances of success are.
The other work habit pivot I recommend is learning how to hunt antelope versus chasing mice. In other words, learning the difference between busy and productive. When you are able to be consistent with the items in your day that actually produce forward momentum and traction rather than the busy work that is really just another form of busyness/self sabotage.
The way you tease out what your productive items are is asking yourself the simple question of: “If I did nothing else today, what must get done to get me closer to my vivid vision?” The second follow up to that when you have a team is: “What 3 things am I an expert in and enjoy that at the end of the day, only I can do?” An example of this might be, “meet with investors.” When you answer those two questions honestly you get the clarity you need on what to focus on and what to delegate day in and day out.
Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.
The first is simple: Definition of done. Your version of done, versus someone else can be vastly different so it all starts here. When you are 100 percent clear on what “done” looks like, this ensures that each party’s expectations are aligned, and thus your chances of success go up exponentially.
Second, delegate anything that is not in your innate talent wheelhouse. If it isn’t your superpower, let someone else, whose superpower it is, plan and run with it. This one is all about having A Players versus worker bees and trusting them to deliver. If you are clear on what done means then this should be a walk in the park to select the right person to see it come to fruition.
Third, the devil is in the details… or the big picture. The thing I have learned after almost a decade helping multi-million dollar companies build teams is that there are two types of people, big picture people, and detail people. If you delegate a big picture project to a detail person, or vice versa, that is a recipe for disaster. Figure out who your employee is and how they process information so nothing gets lost in translation. You need both “big picture” and “detail” people, so make sure you get them in the right order to deliver.
Fourth, in the same vein as #3, you want to make sure you are delegating to the *right* people. Some people are all about innovation & ideas, some are better for timing & delivery, some are best behind the scenes making sure all the details are correct, and some bring all the parts to life. Make sure you have the necessary people on the project so that you don’t accidentally put the onus on someone who quite literally can’t get it across the finish line.
Fifth, feedback is king. The way a team learns to work with you is feedback. When something is done, good or bad, they need and want feedback so take an opportunity to give them that, you’ll thank me later because not only will they continue to improve, but as time passes you will need to spend less and less time helping, but rather guiding.
One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the often quoted cliche “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?
I love that saying! I think it is spot on with this one big caveat. If you are 100% the expert in that one area that you are doing yourself and it is in your natural talent flow, then yes, you are definitely the person to do it right. However, if it isn’t in your zone of genius or your unique talent then you are most likely not only wasting time and money, but keeping your business from its potential. I actually can speak from experience on this one.
When I was first starting out, I was a Chief Everything Officer like so many business owners and I went far too long without hiring expert team members to help. I thought that I could save profit margins by doing a lot of it myself and while I might have looked like I was saving some money, what ended up happening is that my expertise only went so far and with only 24 hours in the day, things started falling through the cracks. Even though I was doing things “right,” things were slipping.
When I brought in a team to compliment the areas I was weak in or didn’t enjoy, that is when the magic happened. They started coming up with their own ideas and plans to get us where we needed to go and my time was freed up to focus on the client delivery, which is why my clients hire me.
It seems so simple looking back but I know in the moment I was very hesitant. The part that makes me laugh is that 9 times out of 10 as long as I was clear on the “definition of done” they did far better work than I ever could. My only regret is not delegating and getting out of the way sooner.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
That’s easy — the mental health of entrepreneurs! I know that being an entrepreneur is often glamified but it is one of the hardest and most emotionally tumultuous things that we can do. I sometimes call it personal development with a paycheck — it is not for the faint of heart and will make all your dragons come out to be slain.
I feel like it might be comparable to what it is like to step into the role of President of the US. No matter your background or experience, you’re never really prepared for what it is going to take to be successful.
It will consist of the highest highs, and lowest lows and almost always takes longer than you think.
To me, if we talked more about the lows, the mental game, and how to cope with the stressors in a healthy manner, not only would we have happier entrepreneurs, but healthier ones too.
In return, they would be able to be more successful, impactful, and fulfilled which creates a win-win for everyone involved.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
Thank you for having me!