I’ve reached the “fish bowl” stage of business ownership and Founder’hood.
Fish bowl [?!], I hear you ask? Let me describe it to you as I described to my powerhouse business coach, Ami [from Craft Coaching & Development]. I told her that “I feel like I’ve done the things you’re meant to do to grow a business, and it’s grown. And it’s still growing. And now I can’t help but feel like I’m watching my business like someone would watch a fish bowl.
And it’s a beautiful view, and the fish are incredible … but I felt a little lost [initially], and am still in that stage of relinquishing as much control as I’ve had whilst this was a “baby business” [and still growing].
Y’see, I wanted to be in there, swimming with the fish. I wanted to get my feet wet. I wanted to feel needed, and be able to prove that I am making an impact. And I want my impact to be known: felt. Appreciated.
But instead? I begun to feel like I was just watching from the outside looking in. And I begun to feel a little redundant. And I even began to feel like I had accidentally become “Jeff Shanley” from the Patrick Lencioni book ‘The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team’. And I wasn’t prepared for any of these feelings, or this particular period of growth and its associated feelings.
And my business coach said, “that’s the thing, Cherie. I don’t know that you’re meant to be in the water as you head into your 8th year in business” and she went on to remind me that I’m not really watching a fish bowl, but an aquarium. And I built the aquarium, but I’m not always meant to swim in it.
I’m a “land creature” now, who’s meant to stay entirely dry so that I can give more to my business via bigger picture visionary activities … and genuine Creative Direction.
It’s not that I’ve given up all authority [hardly], it’s that in giving more control to the incredible human beings I’ve employed to lead the incredible way that they can [and do] … I give more authority to myself to be able to “come up for air” [because of aforementioned “land creature” status] … and utilise what is more important to me as the Founder of a successful business in its 8th year of business, which is Flexible Authority.
… and that’s what I wanted to come here today to talk to you about, i.e my journey towards Flexible Authority as a business owner.
First? You’ll fight it.
Truly, you will.
You’ll fight to give up “control”, just like I did. Not because I’m power hungry. I’m the opposite of power hungry, actually. But because you’ve spent so long being so needed within your business … that … not being needed [or as needed] feels surreal. And terrifying. And redundant, and for people like me wired to feel needed? It’s a real journey to unpack all o’ that.
Go gently, and lean into the right resources to help you in this space. For me – again – it’s Ami from Craft Coaching & Development.
It’s often a Founder’s instinct to strive for greater business success and efficiency by tightening control. But the truth is that when you relinquish that? … you give your team considerable autonomy, and in doing that, you’ll boost innovation and success.
You just will. Because you’re smart. And you hired well. You know you did. And your team does good work, and that drives innovation and success … and when that happens? You are now free to focus on the really big picture, visionary stuff you sometimes weren’t even aware you should be focusing on.
It’s what business owners do best [and entrepreneurs do best]: we are – by design – visionary folk with really big picture thinking credentials.
Once you’ve stopped fighting “having control”? … relinquish it [via a really sound organisational structure].
Although I absolutely back being the company that engages its employees and stimulates innovation by advocating control? … I also know I can only achieve this by establishing non-hierarchical teams via an organisational structure that makes sense [and feels safe] to all within my company.
When we fleshed out recent big changes to TDP’s organisational structure that both respected where we came from, and especially focused on where we were heading … we allowed different teams within TDP to focus on what they do best, and also play a role in making a lot of the company’s decisions.
We couldn’t have done this without a really good organisational structure, though.
I’ve spoken about the importance of this on a million different blog posts I’ve written for TDP, but I’ll say it again: hire well. Hire so flippin’ well. Hire inclusively, and with diversity in mind. Invite values-aligned souls into your business who offer diversity and diverse lived experiences … and who will subsequently challenge you [to do better] instead of always agreeing and just “fitting in”.
Because when you do that? … you’re on the home straight towards flexible authority, thanks to being around a bunch of clever, values-aligned, industry disruptive, culture add [and not fit] change-makers who will challenge you and your business [and the way you’ve always done what you’ve done, in order to do better].
And in hiring as well as I’ve just described particular hiring experiences to be above … you’ll undoubtedly see that same group of incredible human beings driving your business forward in ways you simply can not pull off solo [or when you’re obsessed with having full control].
… which leads me to my final point: you having landed on flexible authority, and why every business owner is allowed to “flex” that.
Flexible Authority: you’re home, when you come home to Flexible Authority!
When I stopped trying to “swim with the fish” in my “TDP fish bowl”, and subsequently accepted my “land creature” status? … I got to spend time with TDP’s Managing Director and write down what my new role [and status, off the back of our business having grown to what it’s become today].
In doing that? I got to say, “this is the stuff I still want involvement with because it’s important to me, and everything else can be handled by you and this incredible team we’ve hired”.
But I also got to add a disclaimer, and it’s an important one for me and it’s something along the lines of “sometimes, not often, hardly ever actually, but sometimes I will hear you – or my team out – and I will still say ‘I hear what you’re saying, but for Flexible Authority reasons, and for reasons only attributable to the fact that this is still my business … I’m not going to back this decision’ and that’s ok”.
Truly, it’s ok: I know this, because I had to work with a confidence coach and a leadership genius to land on knowing that I really can relinquish control [and I do, because I’m an ego’less organisational leader, and a non-power-hungry human being in general] … whilst still flexing Flexible Authority and saying “no, because no” or “no, because this is my business and this isn’t in alignment with my overall goals for this business as its owner”.
That’s Flexible Authority. I use it seldomly [else I’d be pretending to relinquish control when I’m actually not], I will always respect the opinions of the incredible human beings I’ve employed [who significantly outperform me in the areas of this business I’ve hired them to outperform me in] … but I’ll still know that – on occasion – I won’t agree with something, and I’ll be able to ensure that I can offer a respectful “no” to ensure that this business continues to grow in a way that lines up with my hopes/goals/dreams for this business and its [my] future.
You’re the business owner, you’re allowed to say “no” every now and again. Given how minimally I say ‘no’, and given how much my team are acutely aware that I am ego’less? … I never don’t feel that my ‘no’ and ‘final say power’ on a small range of things isn’t ever respected.
And that’s important for me, and to me.
Can you relate?
Do you enjoy organisational leadership discussions? Feel free to follow me on LinkedIn where I talk about this topic a lot more.