You're Working Too Much
When I worked for other people I had this horrible habit of never being fully off duty. I was a 24/7 employee. I know that part of that is just my personality. I'm DEVOTED when I love what I'm doing. This has led a boss or two to remind me, "Meg, this isn't YOUR company." It kind of makes me laugh when I think about it now but at the time it felt hurtful. Then I had to go home and remind myself that they were, in fact, 100% right. It was not my company and yet I treated it like it was. I cared for it like it was. I thought about it first thing in the morning and last thing before I went to bed. TBH, I was kind of a dream employee in that way. All dreams can turn into nightmares, however, and I think it was intimidating to business owners that I was so invested in their businesses. The upside is that I would do anything to support them. The downside is that it took over my life.
I will say this though, I've realized since working for myself that I'm a much better boss to myself than any boss I've ever had. I am ultimately responsible for what happens in my business and that can feel like a huge responsibility and pressure, but I also love myself and have a very strong value around taking care of myself and the people around me. This commitment creates clear boundaries in my business so that I unplug when I'm out of town in all of the ways that I want to and only do the work that inspires and excites me. I don't feel like there's a person on my shoulder watching me and needing me to produce and perform. I am on my own shoulder telling myself, "You deserve chill time with your family. Enjoy."
I think there are a couple of lessons in this. One is for the business owners out there who have employees that they need to perform consistently. The other is for business owners who are, in essence, their own boss, and need to create space for themselves to relax.
Dear Fellow Employers,
I know you have a business to run and that your livelihood depends on certain results. You've hired people to support you in reaching those goals and you pay them a lot of money so you need to know that they're working hard to help you on that path. I also know, as a former employee, that your words are POWERFUL. Your emails and text messages and VM messages are inspiring and exciting sometimes and, also very often, TOTALLY HEAVY with the weight of responsibility to get that thing done for you NOW. Your people are super responsible and committed and that very fact can be the thing that makes it too easy to accidentally take advantage of them. Pay attention to your employees. Are they tired? Are they overwhelmed? Do they need you to act as a listening ear? Do they need a break? Do they need more money? Do they need you to not text them after 5pm? Everyone works differently and it's YOUR responsibility to figure out how each of them thrives and then create an environment where they can do just that. It's not a perfect process, but it should be at the very top of your list to be thinking about and actioning on this. You can't actually afford NOT to. These people you love will leave you. They are not dating you. They are not your family. They have no loyalty beyond their job description. Treat them well. Treat them better than you think is even necessary. They will be happiest and perform best in that environment. Humans are intrinsically motivated to do well and to master their craft. They will do this if they are not de-motivated. Stay out of their way and be cautious that you aren't saying or doing things that de-motivate them. You shouldn't have to "motivate" anyone. If you're hiring the right people and you have them on the right seat of the bus then they will run with their responsibilities and often do better than you can! Your one responsibility is to not take that motivation away by causing them to be discouraged. Discouragement is something that happens when you speak down to them, micro manage their work load, don't give them clear job descriptions or titles, don't check in with them enough and ask questions, and when you pay them too little. It also happens when you criticize the work they've done, don't honor your word, and take away things you've given them that they care about and have put a lot of work into. You will demoralize people very quickly if these things become habits. Always remember this: YOU ARE NOT CAPABLE OF DOING BIG THINGS WITHOUT YOUR TEAM. Avoid the need to tell them how great you are and how much you're doing and how integral you are to the business. This seems like a no brainer, but it happens all the time when you're an insecure leader. Instead, tell them how special THEY are and how integral THEY are and remind them constantly that you couldn't do it without them.
Dear Overworked Business Owner/Boss,
I see you trying so hard to cross all of your t's and dot all of your i's. You're trying to see the big picture and also never forget the details. It's tough to be shifting back and forth between the macro and the micro every day. I also know that there's a lot on the line and that you've waited a long time for this moment. There's a feeling you have some days where you wake up and think, "I HAVE to do this or that or I COULD FAIL!!!" I want to remind you that it's very likely untrue & that your mind is probably tricking you into thinking it IS true so that you stay in a state of high alert (aka: anxiety). A great habit to get into is to ask yourself, "Is that really true?" when you feel a firm statement enter your mind that immediately produces anxiety. Learn to question every anxious thought as it comes your way. In many cases, just the question itself will snap you out of increasing panic. Will your business fall apart if you put it on pause for a day? For a week? For a month??? If you truly believe that it will, then maybe it's time to sit down and list out the reasons why. Do you not have the right people in the right roles to support you effectively? Are you micro-managing? Are you stuck in a place of control? Is your ego running your business? If you believe that your absence will automatically equal failure within your business then it may be that you are exaggerating your own importance on a day to day basis. As long as you stay stuck in that place, you will find it incredibly difficult to have healthy boundaries within your company that keep you feeling peaceful, happy, and in control of your personal life. Practice seeing what happens when you let go. Let your team run the show. If things fall through the cracks then you have an amazing opportunity to coach your leaders so that they can grow! It's not a failure. It's an experiment in trust. You are KILLING it, lady. Don't let yourself get to the point where you feel like a day off is a luxury. A day off should be happening every week of your life - without guilt. You are worthy of that and everyone around you will benefit.
If you need support with creating these kinds of boundaries and setting up your team to get results for you (sometimes without you), then reach out. I would love to help.