“Doing everything yourself” vs. “Ensuring everything gets done”

There’s so many different aspects of a business – sales, marketing, admin, the technical ability or skill to deliver the core service, finance, design, and so on.  Some of these areas require exactly the opposite skills required for other areas – for instance sales requires empathy and people skills while finance requires a logical mind and abstract skills.  Its a very rare person who can bridge all the areas required.

But all these aspects of a business have to be attended to.  As a result, many business owners put huge pressure on ourselves about the areas we are not good at: we can see that things need doing but we struggle to do them. So we feel guilty about not doing them, or worry about them and do nothing, or beat ourselves up because we “should” be able to do it, or blame others for the poor performance, or get frustrated or angry that the stuff has to be done at all, or any number of other responses.

None of these responses really help, of course.  They’re just perfectly natural responses to feeling jammed into an impossible situation where something needs doing, you’re responsible for it, and yet you lack the resources to do it.  Awful!

To help my clients with the tensions around all this, I often find myself drawing attention to the business owner’s role as director of operations.  The shift here is to acknowledge that, yes, the owner is of course responsible for everything – but that responsibility is more specifically to ensure everything gets done.  This is NOT the same as “doing everything yourself”.

“Doing everything yourself” is like a rod for your own back.  “Doing everything yourself” is part of the stoic old-style grit-your-teeth model of masculinity – which carries over into the world of small business no matter what your gender is. It assumes that we are all isolated units, each entirely self-sufficient, and that we are judged by how capable we are of living up to this unrealistic and even cruel ideal.  In this world, responsibility is a massive burden that can kill.

“Ensuring everything gets done”, on the other hand, is a softer more humble approach yet it also implies the power to take action.  It assumes that we are limited creatures, who have strengths in some areas and are weak in others.  It’s part of the new spiritually-oriented or values-driven entrepreneurship which holds that we all have a unique contribution to offer, and that business is a collaborative effort which is a vehicle for each of our unique contributions.  In this world responsibility is empowerment to create the world of our dreams.

Ensuring everything gets done means getting other people to fill in the gaps where you’re not good at stuff.  This usually costs you money – though not always:  all sorts of creative arrangements are possible.  But whatever the exchange is, the pay-off can more than offset it – which is the whole point of synergy through collaboration.  If you get other people who, in supplying that service, are also pursuing their own unique contribution, there’s 3 returns:

  •  Bottom line: Every aspect of your business functions as it should.
  • Personal affirmation:  You get the space to pursue your unique contribution as well as the satisfaction of seeing you are a good business director.
  • Community celebration: Your own values, and the values of everyone involved, are affirmed and celebrated.

Its so easy, of course, to fall into “doing everything yourself”.  Thank goodness, these days there’s more and more support  for “ensuring everything gets done”!

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