We all know that being busy does not mean you're successful, right? And yet, many of us, particularly in the world of management, associate "busy-ness" with importance, and importance with success. Solving problems makes us feel needed--special, even. It feels good to believe you're the only person who can save the day.
Does anyone remember the Maytag repairman? He was bored and frequently lonely. He felt lost and useless. Why's that? Well, as the old advertisements told us, Maytag products needed so few repairs that he didn't have much of a job to do.
So, if you're the CEO of a multi-million dollar company, and some days no one needs you, does that make you successful or unsuccessful? It's harder to answer than it sounds.
I run a multi-million dollar, global, remote business. For the better part of a decade, I worked myself to the bone. For the past two years, I have been hiring an incredible management team and setting up systems and processes for the business to run smoothly, with the goal of being able to take a giant step back.
About two months ago, I logged into our project management and collaboration tool, and I had zero messages. Zero! I hit refresh a few times. I checked tech support logs. "Success!" Here are the four lessons that I learned on my journey to move fully out of the entrepreneur/founder role and into the CEO role:
1. Don't meddle.
My first move when my team started to run things so smoothly that they didn't need me: I meddled. I did the virtual equivalent of peering over people's shoulders and saying, "Hey, whatcha doing? Need any help?" It was a disaster.
It's demoralizing for a very capable team member to be confident in their role and have the CEO start to share unsolicited opinions. Plus, it's duplicative. So, if you find yourself in the fortunate situation to have worked yourself out of a job, the main lesson is to keep it that way.
2. Watch your KPIs--like a hawk.
If you're not involved in the day to day, it's easy to accidentally check out. That's not only ill-advised, it's also irresponsible.
If you've set up the business right, then you have a weekly and monthly scorecard that gives you insight into what's happening in the business. It's the only barometer you have to see the business results and interpret them in your own way.
Review those key performance indicators (KPIs) regularly, probe, and ask questions. As the leader, you're the only person in the business with the complete end-to-end perspective, so you may see trends that others miss while they're in the weeds.
This is your job. Embrace it.
3. What got you here won't get you there.
Once you're out of the day to day, remember the real role for most CEOs isn't meant to be firefighting and problem-solving. Your role is about growing the business, establishing the company culture, innovating, and strategizing. You'll quickly realize that most of the activity that would truly make your business great in those areas isn't going to be found sitting in front of a computer.
So, read books. Join a mastermind group. Talk to other CEOs. Have "how are you" skip-level calls with your team.
The CEO's role doesn't look like work. But replicating the type of work you did as you moved up the ladder in your business won't carry you forward? It will simply hold you back.
4. Give yourself permission to rest.
Once you have fewer fires to fight, you might be tempted to start pursuing projects that you never would have prioritized if you were busy. Don't.
If it didn't have a good return on investment before, it won't now. Don't undervalue your time just because you have more of it. Self-care is critical to your health--and, by extension, your business's health too. If you find yourself in a position where you're able to take a step back and rest, give yourself permission to do so.
So, with that, quietly slip off your super(wo)man cape and meet your mastermind group for a coffee.