Let Go To Lead
“I had to get over my fears of delegation to actually be able to grow,” Casey told the group.
The theme of the Apex North Roundtable that day in December was “The Gifts of 2020.” Every CEO and Business Owner was asked to answer the same question: “Looking back on 2020, what changes, innovations, skills and developments are you thankful for? What were you pushed to do differently, and for the better?”
Casey recounted for us the pressure of those days early in the spring of 2020, when stay-at-home orders threatened businesses of every kind. Casey is the founder and CEO of Gophermods, a retail tech company, that includes retail stores across the Twin Cities. “Early on (the leadership team) decided we’d do all we needed to silo the stores. That was just the best way to protect everybody in case anyone got sick.”
Prior to last March, if a Gophermods store needed help, other stores might send people over to help. Casey himself was visiting multiple stores every week. So if one person got sick, it could have threatened every store – “Which would be catastrophic for the business,” he said.
The development Casey was so thankful for, looking back on 2020, wasn’t just his ability to delegate, but the need to delegate in order to move forward.
That’s when the change in delegation started.
“We had to let go of the rope a little bit. We had to step back, trust our processes, and let our team execute. And if it wasn’t for what’s happening today, I don’t think we would have ever felt comfortable letting go, and realizing we should’ve done it a long time ago.”
As the pandemic continued, Casey and his leadership team began to see the benefits of letting go. “The wheels haven’t fallen off,” he says today, “there haven’t been any issues. The biggest change is that, now that we’ve reduced our need to be in the stores, we can focus on more valuable actions and goals for the company, versus needing to be in it every day.”
What is the role of a leader? Of course, we could recommend book after book on the subject, but what it comes down to is this: leaders have to lead. And often, leading means letting go of all the things that are NOT leading.
Spending an hour correcting a small mistake on your own? Not leading.
Having an emotional conversation about your frustration with a team member...with someone who is not that team member? Not leading.
“Checking up on” monotonous, repetitive tasks that are someone else’s responsibility, because you don’t trust they’ll do it “the right way”? Not leading.
The truth is, the more you lead, the more you have to let go. The larger your business becomes, the more you will need to delegate to others on your team. That’s why we call it a team – everyone has their role, and the goals can only be achieved when everyone is able and empowered to carry out their role to the best of their ability. The more that you, as the leader, allow your team to learn their capabilities (yes, even by failing), the more they will be able to excel.
The more Casey shared about what he’d learned from his Gift of 2020, the more other members of the Roundtable piped in with their own experiences. One of the biggest issues keeping our cohort members going from Good to Great, they reported, is “doing other people’s jobs.”
It feels scary to let go, but once you do, little by little you will be freed to do the job you are there to do, and pursue the purpose and vision you have set for yourself and your team.
“Have I grown as a leader because of all this?” Casey says, “I have only grown because my team has grown. They’ve gained confidence. The big issue with delegating for most people is the feeling of ‘no one else can do it better than I can,’ and for me that myth was, for lack of a better word, busted during COVID.”
In running a business, there are many moments where fear can take hold, and the desire to control can be all-consuming. But doubling down here is what leads to tunnel vision, reactivity, and chaos. Where can you make time to step back and clarify? How can you take yourself out of the chaos and reconnect with your vision? Find that place, that time, and use it – your business, your team, and your family will thank you.
As we neared the end of our final Roundtable session of 2020, we asked each leader to share one word or phrase to describe how they felt. Casey’s word, “relaxed,” was that much more powerful knowing the journey he’d taken to arrive.
The space, time, and support to go from chaos to clarity. Apex North invites you to one week of transformative growth in the Costa Rican jungle this October. Learn more here.
What is your Leadership Comfort Zone, and what do you need to be doing to push past it? Take our colleague Brad Giles’s Made To Thrive Assessment here
What kind of trust is your team operating on? Learn about Vulnerability-Based Trust in this video from Patrick Lencioni
A North Star Vision unites a team around a vibrant, compelling long-term goal. Do you know yours? Does your team?