I’ve been working with a few different clients over the last two weeks who all seem to have a similar struggle. They are unable to make the shift from being an employee of their business into a higher level owner or manager who directs their business.
I’ve always had a disapproving view of “mindset coaching”, but the more time I spend working with business owners in particular, the more I realize this is a fundamental part of growth.
When I consider the various situations I’ve encountered recently, the simple truth is that without spending time working with owners on their sense of self, on their identity, no amount of process and system improvement will create the freedom they’re seeking.
Example One: Indespensible
This client has an incredible depth of knowledge in his field, and is continually looking for new things to learn. His identity has become ingrained with a sense of value that is based almost entirely on his ability to answer the tough questions and solve the difficult problems. Even though he understands that he needs management structures in place for his business to continue to grow, he’s avoided implementing those changes because he gets a sense of value and purpose when he helps his staff and his customers directly. The challenge here is that he is honestly the most effective employee in his business. But he has dreams and plans for things that will pull on his time and attention, and something is going to need to give. Either he gives up on those dreams, or he has to find a way to let go of that part of himself, allowing his team to grow into the space.
Example Two: Independent
This client is driven, determined, and incredibly efficient. She provides a premium service to her clients, and has only just recently realized that she can (and should) be charging appropriately. But this shift in her self-worth is only the beginning. This client has very high standards, and is afraid to even allow anyone else to represent her business, and still does all her work herself. Many tasks that could be outsourced or automated are completed manually, and even on those rare times she brings someone along to work with her, she sometimes spends as much time reviewing their work as it would take for her to do it herself. This mindset is a hard one to break because it is also going to be true most of the time. Nobody else will do the job as well as this client, but this mindset limits growth to such a degree that she will not ever gain freedom in her business. One option here is for the client to offer a premium and standard service, where the standard services are provided by contractors or staff. This allows her clients to “vote with their feet” and validate the idea that even though others will not perform to the same standard, they’re still going to deliver value.
Example Three: Indoctrinated
This client works in an industry that punishes change. He has already pushed so many boundaries in his approach, and even though he’d like to explore new ways of doing things, he also has to contend with a fear. “It’s not like any other industry”. But the truth is that no industry is like the others – that’s why we categorize as we do. And even in a given industry, there are so many ways to do business, and so many ways to measure success or create differentiation. For this client, the challenge is to find ways to show that he is part of the industry, but he’s not defined by it. He can bring unique perspectives (as he already has), but he can also show others new ways of thinking. The choice to conform to expectations is a limiting choice, and this clients freedom is calling to him from the other side.
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