What do helicopter parents, balding men, and most business owners all seem to have in common? They just don’t know when to let go. While the first two are classic tales of clinging to your kids or clinging to the past, the last involves a conflict even more relatable. The desire to remain in control.
Business owners are famously self-reliant. They might try to convince you that they alone have the right knowledge or ability to run their business at every stage regardless of scope or priority. They’ll tell you that they don’t need any help, and many of them genuinely believe it. But the truth is the same for owners and people in general — we all struggle with the idea of trusting others and giving them control over the things we value.
On one hand, as a consultant, I completely understand the hesitance to open up and incorporate someone else into your operations. Entrepreneurialism is so intimate by nature, bringing another person into the fold would require an overwhelming amount of trust and mutual understanding. You built this thing from the ground up, fed it when you were hungry, clothed it when you were cold. Making the mistake of introducing the wrong element into your process just wouldn’t be worth the risk.
And then there’s the passion factor. You care so much about this business, you live and breathe its vision, its mission, its core values. You’ll work late nights and weekends because you enjoy it, because it makes you happy, because it’s important to you. How can you be sure an external decision-maker will have the same motivation or understanding that you do? How can you know that they’ll love your baby the way they should, and care for it the way you’d want them to? Again, not worth the risk.
It can be difficult to let someone else take the reins while you ride in the back seat or the passenger. We overwork, overcommit, and overextend ourselves, stretching our fingers in every direction just to keep our hands on a ball that’s often way too large for one person to handle. It’s the natural approach, the business is your baby after all, and you don’t just let anyone hold your baby. But the bigger it gets, the easier it becomes to slip and fall. Accepting a helping hand and relinquishing some control may at some point become the best thing you could do. In fact, giving up power could possibly make you more powerful than ever.
If you ask the average person, they’d probably tell you that they’re pretty good at multitasking. But what many see as productivity is often the illusion of productivity rather than the real thing. The American Psychological Association points out that multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but could actually take more time in the end and involve more error. By not focusing entirely on one thing, you divide your attention across several, and as a result, don’t do exceptionally well with any.
Another hurdle many leaders tend to face is the self-enhancement bias where they believe that it’s easier to do everything themselves, or that their work is inherently better than others. But by spreading themselves thin and not entrusting some of their work to others, they often end up doing a mediocre job across the board. Being constantly busy means you don’t have the time to analyze, monitor, or strategize. How are you supposed to look ahead when you’re too busy trying to focus on all the things in front of you?
Think of your business or your life as a rowboat. Rowing in your little one-seater with two paddles, you might eventually end up arriving at your destination. But throughout that process you’re stopping to look for landmarks, trying to choose the right paths, and taking many, many breaks. Maybe you get there by the end of the day, maybe you don’t. But you’ll definitely be hungry and exhausted by the time you do.
Now imagine a boat seating five or ten, or even just two. Each person having their own roles and all having their own paddles. Some might take turns paddling while the others rest or distribute food. The person at the head might look for landmarks while the person in the middle consults the map. You arrive hours earlier with you all working towards the same destination, and your arms don’t feel like rubber either. This is how delegation becomes a multiplier. By working with others instead of by yourself, you supercharge your own ambitions. By trusting them with just a bit of control, giving them their own paddles, and letting them steer while you chart the course, you suddenly become the captain of a ship rather than just another person in a rowboat.
Of course, there are still the real-life considerations of affordability and benefit versus cost. Help is rarely free and you may not always be able to justify the expense. But assuming you’re already at that point of being stretched thin, hiring part-time, full-time, or even virtual help could spare you a lot of stress and maybe a trip to the doctor. Boosted productivity, efficiency, and increased capacity are all benefits that make an extra set of hands worth the investment. And in the end, you’ll be happy when you see it reflected in the growth of your business and in the strength of your bottom line.
We all need a little help sometimes. Even Superman had the Justice League. So why not practice letting go and delegate today?