Are you exhausted by operations?

In my work with growing businesses, I get an inside look at many aspects of life as an entrepreneur, and some of the things I see are a bit surprising.  Most of us expect that adding a team member (or two) will allow us to slow down.  We think delegating key operational tasks will allow us to think strategically, create new products and services, and maybe even rest a little bit.

But, unfortunately, things are rarely that smooth and simple.

If you’re exhausted by operations – and find yourself just as busy (or maybe even busier) than you were before adding a team – you likely have one of three problems.  And these problems are affecting more than just your energy level.  They are creating problems for your team members as well.

Problem One :: Your operational systems exist in your mind, but not the minds of your team members.

Even if you’ve only been in business a short time, you’ve developed operational systems.  You just might not realize it yet.  Your operational systems include the normal ways you serve your clients, produce your products, create invoices, and receive payments.  

As a solopreneur, you completed each of these tasks repeatedly…and over time you developed habits and patterns of doing each thing.  These are your operational systems – even if they aren’t written down anywhere or documented in a tool. These systems exist in your mind and are “second nature” to you as you run your business.

Of course, your team member does not have direct access to your mind. She does not do things the same way you do and has not developed the same habits.  So, naturally, she looks to you for guidance and instruction… at least until those systems become natural to her as well.

Now that you have a team (even if your team is just one contractor who works with you on a part-time basis) you must communicate and share the operational systems you’ve created over time. Without documentation, this means answering questions, responding to requests, and correcting mistakes.  No wonder you’re exhausted!

Problem Two :: You’ve documented your operational systems, but the systems themselves are broken or incomplete.

If you’ve followed my work for some time — read my posts, worked with me, attended my workshops— you’ve probably documented a few of your key systems. Maybe you’ve created a checklist or two. Perhaps you use a tool like Asana or Trello to stay organized and run your business.

You may have thought it would be easy to introduce a team member to your system. But, maybe things haven’t gone as smoothly as you anticipated.  You still get a lot of questions.  Your team member makes frequent mistakes.  He just doesn’t seem to have the skills you need or the judgment you expect.  You’re wondering if you hired the wrong person because working with him is exhausting!

Take a minute and slow down here.  Most often mistakes and questions are a result of incomplete or broken systems.  You may have skipped a crucial step because it seems obvious to you, but it may not be obvious to your team member.  Or – your system might have a problem you don’t realize until someone else (your team member) begins to use it.

I truly believe that nearly everyone wants to do a good job, including your team member.  Give him the benefit of the doubt.  Before you start looking for a replacement for your team member, take a look at your systems.

Problem Three :: You aren’t sure you can trust your team member, and your team member isn’t sure about you either.

Now don’t misunderstand me.  I know you selected your team member carefully, evaluating his skills and abilities, checking his references, and taking every precaution possible to make sure he was a good fit for you.  But, have you taken time to develop a relationship of mutual trust? Maybe not.

Something happens inside our hearts when we begin to delegate. We start to doubt…and we begin feeling insecure. Can we really trust our customers to be taken care of by this new person? Can we be sure she will actually get the work done on time? If we aren’t sure, we start to micromanage. It can happen to all of us…and if you’re exhausted by operations, it might be happening to you.

When you begin to doubt, your new team member feels it.  She starts to ask simple questions even when she knows the answer, double-check instructions, and question her own judgment.  She can sense that you don’t trust her, and she begins to feel insecure.  Suddenly, she isn’t sure about her place on your team.

The solution is simply relational — taking time to build mutual trust and creating the understanding of using your systems as a tool. Meet with your team member and talk with her. Explain the “why” behind the system, share your value and mission, and clarify your expectations. Allow her to share her goals and thoughts too. Create an open dialogue around the system itself, and let a relationship of mutual trust build from there.

Exhausted by operations? The solution starts with systems.

The solution to each of these problems involves systems.  

Perhaps you need to get your systems out of your head and communicate them to your team.  Maybe your systems just need a few tweaks to fix a problem or add steps you’ve missed.  Or maybe the solution is as simple as stepping back a bit and using your system to start a conversation that builds trust between you and your team member.