In the E-Myth, Michael Gerber talks about the “entrepreneurial spasm”. He defines an entrepreneurial spasm as the moment when the former worker gets mad enough at his boss, or desirous enough of a chance to make it big, that he/she risks it all and enters the world of business as the owner of a new company. I agree that most so-called “entrepreneurs” were really only an entrepreneur for a very short period of time. They then quickly need to become something else: a leader.
In my case, I defined myself as an entrepreneur for far too long. What my company was crying out for was someone to choose the right people for the right jobs, communicate the plan to those people, train and develop the team, and provide the motivational glue to hold the whole thing together. Instead, I was busy scheming up new ways to grow the enterprise so that I could have the freedom to pursue my dreams. In reality however, my dream was to have a stable growing business that provided for the whole team with happy loyal customers who were a pleasure to work with.
An excellent Harvard Business Review article on the stages of business growth goes so far as to say that a company’s likelihood of growing past what they call the “Take-Off Phase” is highly dependent on the owner’s ability to delegate.
Can the owner delegate responsibility to others to improve the managerial effectiveness of a fast growing and increasingly complex enterprise? Further, will the action be true delegation with controls on performance and a willingness to see mistakes made, or will it be abdication, as is so often the case?
So I need to let people make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes, but still have the discipline to hold them accountable for their performance. I need to find the middle ground between being a micro-manager, limiting the growth of the team, or going totally hands off and abdicating my team, and then wondering why we don’t meet our goals… Driving me back to being a micro manager! This was a common pattern for me in the past.
If you thought this post would end with an explanation of how easy my life is now that I am focusing on leadership – Surprise! That’s not the ending.
The IBEX culture and the two lines of business it supports IBEX Payroll and Inclusion by IBEX are both at their most successful phases ever. I feel like I am doing what a leader is supposed to do. I also feel like I have gone from blissfully unaware of my leadership shortcomings, to painfully aware of them. The old saying that “the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know” definitely holds true in my case.
I hope our competitors learn these lessons slower than we do because I think once the spasm is over, leadership is the key ingredient.