As I work on the outline of my next book focusing on leadership and entrepreneurial endeavors, I reviewed my clients' initiatives and accomplishments to date and then paused to ask myself a couple of questions. "Why did they come to me in the first place? What was the question(s) that they initially were asking? Is there a common thread in each case that brought them to my team and I to assist them?
All of them, initially came to me with a HOW DO I? question.
I realized that my gifts are in taking action, aka: get shit done (GSD). It is what people originally came to me for in my consulting practice and looked for guidance on in my coaching practice. That is why I call myself an Actionable Coach. Talk only goes so far, and I hold people accountable to deliver against a plan we work on together. It's what I enjoy most!
I always offer three things to my clients:
Getting clear on the desired outcome.
Discuss possible solutions to solve the challenges they face.
Breakthrough obstacles that hinder them from achieving the life they want.
Show them methods of getting into action while providing strategic oversight as an adviser.
I realize these activities combine the right and left brain because I am able to marry innovative, creative thinking with linear execution paths. But, when I think about the startup leaders I have worked with and how much each one takes on to hustle into the next phase of their business, the "How Do I" questions are flying from all directions.
As a coach, I enjoy halting my clients in their tracks and asking them, "Why do you...?" questions. First, it's to make sure I best understand what they are saying. And next, to make them aware of whether or not what they are asking how to do is relevant at that point in time in their business and if they are considering their skill set.
When you use the word "why", it halts people in their tracks and makes them question what they are doing or asking about.
If someone is unsure about why they need to do something and starts jumping into how to do something, irrelevant tasks creep in, instead of focusing on what is important right now to move the business forward with their distinct skill set.
A recent coaching session with a founder of a new consumer product company is an excellent example of my point of knowing why something is needed before you jump into the how. This particular client is the innovation head of the company that creates all products and helps serve customer demand to increase sustainable sales and client satisfaction for the firm. He asked: "How do I staff an operations department that can get our product out the door faster?"
I will tell you right now, distracting himself with operational tactics that are not his skill-set, nor his desire to work on, will distract him from what he can do to move the lever of the business. Finding the right team member or service to focus on operational efficiencies and allow him to have input and oversight on the output would be the best use of his time, and be executed against with ease. However, his mindset as a founder of his business, is that he should know how to do everything himself in order to succeed in his business. This is a common mindset when launching your first business because you are trying to prove that your concept is worth it before you have other people involved in delivering your dream. It's a catch 22 when you lead this way. I like to help innovative thinkers get out of their own way and get comfortable seeking the expertise of others to get the "how" done faster and more efficiently.
When you start asking the How do I questions, first ask yourself, "Who do I need to accomplish XYZ?" Outline the skill-set and the qualifications for the job at hand. Then ask yourself, if this is a role you have the expertise in. Are you committed to following through on the top initiative for you to move the lever of your business, or is it better suited for someone else?
It's a quick self-assessment to show you that just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should in order to achieve the best outcome for your business.
It's like asking an accountant to go design your next product packaging layout. Two totally different skill sets are not generally the strengths in one person. If you are going to invest, it's better to invest in the best.
Most entrepreneurs start out as solopreneurs, which results in a do it myself mentality. Especially now when there is so much technology that allows us to have a self-service model of operations in place. It makes you feel like you should be doing it all, and save on the risk of employing another. When in fact, your business will grow if you delegate the tasks that are not your expertise to another, and also be open to input from your new team members on how best to grow your business and service your clients.
In order to grow past yourself, you need to build a team that is capable of filling the gaps that you are unable to do. I hear the excuse of money all the time to expand past doing everything yourself. It's too expensive to hire someone else. Well, it is also too expensive to be doing it all yourself in a half-assed manner and then under-servicing your clients with a slower product to market and below par services, than if you had a team. You also tend to keep demand for your product and services lower than they could be because you are only one person doing it all. It is just not scalable.
The best question to ask at times like this is How do I find the right person to help me fill in the gaps of my business that I know I need? Now you have opened yourself up for growth and expansion of your business past yourself. Did you just take a deep breath? I know I did. Adding team members to align with your vision and help you accomplish it is a wise investment. You don't have to do it all, and you don't have to do it alone.