Growth creates one of the most difficult mindset issues in a leader. The ability to grow most likely means a leader has to get out of her current job and give it to someone else or else incur the risk of hindering growth – for herself or her company. She has to let go for growth.
Examples of Growth are abundant
The head of product that becomes head of business.
The start up founder that makes her first hire (even if it is a VA!).
The CEO who steps up to Chairman and hands someone else the reins.
The visionary charity founder who can no longer do everything.
No matter what the industry is, the size of company or stage of the company - letting go is hard.
The fear of letting go
Understandably, letting go creates an admittance that there is someone out there that can do what you do.
- Will you be replaceable then? Letting go means you will not make every single decision.
- Will people second guess your previous decisions then? Letting go means you will not be in all the nitty gritty details of running the company or business.
- What if you miss an important detail then? The list could go on as the uncertainty about the future and insecurities about one’s worth come to life.
My personal struggle with letting go
I have personally been through constant processes of letting go in my corporate and charity career. And I am not talking delegation. Delegation can be done through a process of going through project or task lists and assigning them to team members. That is certainly important too and I can probably write multiple articles about that. However, you retain ultimate control and there is often an embedded assumption that there will be some checking and reporting back along the way. But that is not the hardest thing, as hard as it actually may be.
Over the last months, I have been through a renewed process of delegation with my team, ensuring team members exposure, level of interests and ambitions were met, alongside team meetings and 1on1 checks. I delegated execution but, at any point, I am able to jump back into most of the tasks at hand. I call that protecting coverage, but really, it is a limited ability to let go. And with that in mind, this last effort I have been through has been stronger than ever before, and I did finally let go of some things, and will only go back in if requested, not on my own terms necessarily.
Why let go? Growth
Only by letting go do you allow yourself space for growth.
If you are delegating but not really putting it out of your mind space, it is hard to grow. It is hard to grow into a new role, hard to grow the company, hard to scale impact. Because I had the ambition to spend more time on a new role I was assigned to, I knew the only option would be to have the actual free time and calendar to do it.
In the first few days where I actually properly let go of many projects, it felt weird. The calendar was less full and everyone around me was looking busy.
And then growth happened, I started working my way into what I needed to achieve in my new role, what the needs are, the strategy, the plan. I lived up to my lead title by actually being a thought leader, not just executing on what my old role included in the hope to one day have time for the new role.
That first moment of void is hard. But I am getting to grips with it.
The other end of letting go
I have also been on the other side of the spectrum, trying to help business leaders let go. Not always to me, but let go of certain project or roles. And the first reaction was not always the most positive.
Knowing I was threading difficult waters, I recently brought up the growth ambition.
‘You will never be what this job needs you to be unless you let go’.
And then suddenly you start to see the spark and the possibilities. It is only when you stop having a job that you really are able to mentally conceptualize a new one.
Do I let go?
I don’t have to know all the children’s names, I don’t have to know all the numbers; I don’t have to respond to all the emails, I don’t have to know every single new owner, I don’t have to make all the small decisions.
I chose not to every day. And we have grown beyond myself.