Meet Eric the Entrepreneur – a confident, committed, and tireless servant of his business…
And an absolutely terrible leader. In fact, many of the qualities that make Eric sound so great are the very same that prevent him from leading his team effectively. Although it might sound paradoxical, this phenomenon becomes clear as day as soon as you watch Eric in action. So, let’s assume our positions as the proverbial flies on the wall, and watch Eric the Entrepreneur as he slogs through yet another unforgiving, mire of a Monday.
The Curse of Overconfidence
At 8:45 on Monday morning, Eric arrives at the office to find that a crisis has been already been stewing in his inbox since 7:30:
From: Janine West
Subject: Urgent – IRS Inquiry/Audit
Body: Eric, did you see this letter from the IRS that came in yesterday?!…..
As he reads through the attached letter, Eric’s heart rate begins to climb steadily. It feels like each passing paragraph adds a whole fistful of digits to his blood pressure. By the end of the letter, Eric feels like he’s just run a marathon. With the prickly heat of anxiety dancing across his body, Eric stares at the motivational poster on his opposing office wall…
“Will your way to success,” written in all caps, beneath an image of a boxer holding his fists aloft at the top of a massive flight of stairs.
In 10th grade, Eric won a math competition focused on personal finance. And ever since, he’s fancied himself a regular CPA. In reality, though, the height of his bookkeeping and accounting skills occurred somewhere near the close of his junior year. Nonetheless, he has insisted on managing his own bookkeeping, and tax record-keeping ever since; despite the steady growth of his business, and the increasing complexity of its financial needs.
Confidence is an essential quality for leadership; but in excess, it can lead to overzealous, ineffective leadership. In this case, it’s led to an audit by the IRS.
Overconfidence also tends to come hand in hand with a lack of confidence in others. That’s why, rather than seek the help of a qualified, professional bookkeeper, Eric decided to handle his business’s finances on his own. Today, he is reaping the rewards of that stubborn refusal to delegate.
The Error of Overextension
After failing to force a light lunch into his still-queasy stomach, Eric heads to his monthly team meeting. These meetings bring together the startup’s entire team and serve as indispensable means of evaluating, and reorienting, the business’s direction. About 20 minutes into the meeting, Eric’s cell phone rings:
Ryan: Hey, Eric. This is Ryan from Genericorp. I tried you at your office a couple of times but couldn’t reach you. Are you still free to talk about the deal?
Eric’s stomach sinks as he remembers that he’d scheduled a critical meeting with a prospective customer a full 20 minutes ago—the same exact start time as his team meeting. In a panic, Eric waves away his whole team and tries his best to stumble through the now-delayed call with Ryan from Genericorp. However, having forgotten about the scheduled call, Eric is completely unprepared. He forgets Genericorp’s key market challenges, their goals, and practically everything else he needs to close the deal. In the end, the call fizzles, and Eric never hears back from the good folks at Genericorp.
Tireless is one of those words that exist only as ideas. Just as nothing or no one is truly perfect, neither is anyone truly tireless. And in Eric the Entrepreneur’s case… he’s tired. He’s overextended himself and as a result has become disorganized and prone to major blunders like the one with Genericorp.
Rather than entrusting scheduling, client research, and other essential tasks to a professional assistant, Eric has decided to do it himself; overextending himself to the point where he risks sabotaging his very own company. No matter how little sleep you need to survive, business leadership isn’t about surviving—it’s about thriving. And, in the long term, no one can thrive when overworked, overextended, and plain-old worn out.
Delegation or Deterioration
The most successful leaders aren’t those who put the weight of the world upon their shoulders. Instead, they’re those who know what, when, and to whom to delegate that rise above the rest. As a leader, there are things that only you can do. Things like casting your company’s vision, developing and cultivating its culture, and making high-stakes executive decisions.
But for every one of those duties, there are a dozen others that don’t require your input, but are just as important to your business’s success. The sooner you recognize what those duties are and how best to delegate them, the sooner you can take your organization from survival mode to growth mode.
Don’t Fail to Delegate
Are you ready to start delegating? Here’s a tip sheet to see who on your team is ready to take on more responsibility.