Shirley owned and operated two large Montessori preschools in California. These schools were very successful, serving 400 children each day.
But there was a catch – the business was consuming Shirley.
She was exceptionally good at what she did. She dealt with parents, generally the largest source of fires and challenges for a preschool, gracefully yet firmly. She understood how to smoothly deal with staff challenges, the second largest source of difficulty in her world.
Yet the better Shirley got at dealing with these situations, the more her business came to rely on her to handle them.
“I was working more than 14 hours per day, 7 days a week, and was literally overwhelmed by the business,” Shirley reported. “Much of the work I did, such as greeting the kids and parents and working with a great team of teachers, was satisfying and rewarding. I was, however, the only person able to deal with any escalation that would arise, and with 50 staff members and nearly 400 children enrolled at the two schools, there were many issues to deal with every day. Dealing with all the issues left me exhausted and with little time for working on the business, and it was only after the school closed for the day that I could work on the billing, bookkeeping, hiring, HR issues, purchasing, and all the rest.”
Shirley had unwittingly fallen into the “Competency Trap”. She was so good at what she did that she had built her business to become dependent on her presence and direct participation to solve these same challenges, day after day, month after month.
How about you? Are you so good at what you do that your company, or team, or department have come to rely on you and only you to be there to handle these challenges each time they come up?
If so, here are seven simple steps to help you escape the Competency Trap and build an organization that is stronger and more scalable.
Now this may seem like a lot of work to get out of certain tasks or responsibilities. After all, you say, it would be much easier to just do this item yourself, you’ve gotten so good at it. But that is bait that captured you in the Competency Trap to begin with. Sure it’s easier for you to just do the function yourself than to systematically hand it off to someone else. But, is it really the right thing for your company to have you and only you able to do that function.
Also, remember, you’re not talking about a one-time task. This is a recurring function that likely eats up significant chunks of your time each month and year. And, by growing your team, systems, and controls to be able to handle more of these functions without your direct oversite or participation, you’re strengthening your team and making your company more scalable.
Finally, you’re also freeing yourself up to do other, higher value projects and tasks for your company. This will help you accelerate growth.
So how did this process work out for Shirley?
Listen to her share the impact of this methodology and direct coaching on her business and life:
“If you had asked me before I started the business coaching program if I could have ever let go of the feeling that I needed to personally perform or control every aspect of my business I would have told you no. What I realize now is that, while I am a great contributor to the business, if I build it all around me, I am its greatest limitation. To grow and serve more children and families, I need to be willing to let my team shine. Of course we need the structured systems and a sound culture to guide the team, but the business needs to be able to be successful without me. Letting go hasn’t been easy for me, but it has been so worthwhile. Because of the changes I have made to my beliefs and to the systems and controls we have put in place, I have more time for my family and have greatly reduced the stress in my life.”
So get to work taking that first step to escaping the Competency Trap – creating your draft list of items that you and only you can handle.
If you want to learn more ways to effectively grow your business and get your life back, I encourage you to download a free copy of my newest book, Build a Business, Not a Job. Click here for full details and to get your complimentary copy.