Maybe you know you’ve been working in your business and not on your business for far too long. Maybe you know you’re working as a manager, not CEO, frantically tackling tasks as they come in and simply trying to stay afloat each day.
It’s one thing to know that you’re in manager mode, but another completely to begin the growth process. Becoming CEO is a mindset shift, absolutely, but it takes strategic and intentional action to get there.
Let’s work through a few major things that could be holding you back, keeping you stuck working in manager mode while CEO-status remains worlds away.
What’s keeping you in manager mode?
1. Doing ALL THE THINGS, wearing all the hats, trying to hold onto everything — and thinking you’re the expert in everything.
CEO, your time is precious. And just because you’re good at doing all the things — just because you CAN do all the things — doesn’t mean that you should (or that you’re the best at doing them).
It’s also important to remember that everyone has blind spots and areas of weakness and accept that there is someone out there who can do the things you’re doing better than you and faster than you. NOT your important work, but all the other details you’re holding onto.
What I see happen again and again is the CEO will decide to hire an expert to help them write the copy for their website or manage their launch campaign, but they don’t fully submit to their expertise.
They still insist on succumbing to the mindset that “they know best.” I get that. You do know everything about your business, but the expert you hire knows everything about their field. They’ve studied and honed their craft for years. It’s okay — and actually better for your business ― to let go and let them do the work they know so well.
Delegating takes more time, especially in the beginning. The turnaround time will be slower than if you just did it yourself, but then again, you’re hiring an expert who knows what they’re doing — and how to do it right — and that takes time.
The truth is that we all have gifts to share — time, talent, connections, insights, experience, skills, resources, hospitality. And most people love to share them! Asking for help gives others the chance to do their important work in the world. And when we are all sharing our gifts, the world is a better place.
2. Lacking focus, which causes a lack of consistency.
Because you’re doing all the things, you stop to focus on one thing, taking your mind off another.
Think of all the things that go into running a business. All the things “they” say we need to be doing. It’s so easy to find ourselves bouncing from one important task to the next, never completely focusing on one, always dropping the other when something “more important” comes up. This lack of focus leads to inconsistent presence, delivery, and development.
When I find myself distracted, bouncing from task to task, I ask myself, “What is the goal here?” If these things aren’t aligned with my goals, they are a complete waste of time.
And as we’ve established, CEO, your time is precious. That’s why it’s so important to plan and know what you are working toward. When you fail to make a plan for the day, you are going to find yourself bouncing from busy task to busy task, never making true progress.
First things first, you’ll need to make a plan of action founded on strategy. As CEO, it’s your responsibility to have the wide-angle view of what you want your business to be and where you want it to go, what impact you want to make in the world.
This is where we get practical, focusing on quarterly plans. Looking five years in the future is a great way to cast a vision, but it’s too large of a time span for us to craft a detailed plan within.
When we envision ourselves five years from now, we tend to think of ourselves as a different person entirely — who will we become over the next five years? And looking back, could you have ever imagined five years ago you’d be where you are today?
But when we shorten the time frame to a year or six months or even 12 weeks, we are more easily able to pick goals that are reasonable, measurable, and attainable.
When you know the direction in which you’re going, you’re able to make daily plans. When crafting your plan, ensure everything on your list is moving you toward that 12-week or quarterly goal.
You’ll find there will still be a lot of things you need to accomplish in order to achieve those action items that bring about your big goals. This is a great place to head back to step one — write down everything required to accomplish your goal and run it through the, “should I be doing this?” rubric.
3. Hiring jack-of-all-trades VAs when you actually need to hire the expert
I know you’ve done this (or perhaps you’ve thought about it). You’ve seen other people do it, so you thought it was a good move for your business. Right? Sometimes it’s golden, but other times your VA is out of their depth, trying to do too much without having the skills, or, let’s face it, is simply downright unreliable.
When you’re looking for outside help for your business, it’s important to understand what role you need to fill. Not all VAs will have the same sets of skills, and planning accordingly will save a TON of headaches in the long run.
I’m not saying that VAs aren’t valuable. There is a time in every business where a VA can help the CEO get the lower-level tasks off their plate (think: inbox management, scheduling social media, uploading blogs and email content, etc.)
Here’s the thing, your VA is going to be reactionary, waiting for you to assign them tasks. Waiting for your word before they move forward. They will not apply strategy, ideation, or pull from their experience and education to make strategic recommendations for your business.
An expert, on the other hand, is going to have a proven, signature process that they will lead you through. They generally aren’t waiting for you to assign work. They’ll start and finish the process with your input, but will not require you to lead them along the way.
As your business grows, you will need to find key members of your team or other experts to help you expand and move to the next level. There are places in the business where a generalist can help you out, but there are many places where you want to hire specialized help.
A generalist is going to be great at taking over any of the tasks you have been doing over and over and have a documented process to share. A specialist will come in for the strategy, development, and creation.
4. Saying yes to everything and not knowing when to say “no”
When we have a clear plan for our business, we know what our priorities are and it makes saying no to opportunities that much easier.
So here’s the kicker — why do we say yes when we mean no? I used to find myself in this situation often, saying “yes” but thinking “no.” Why? I never wanted to miss a perceived opportunity.
When we say “yes” to something for fear of missing out, or even because it simply seems like a good idea, if it doesn’t align with our goals and big vision we will miss out on the opportunities that are truly the things we should be saying “yes” to.
We’re hesitant to let others down when asked to commit to something, or we may feel trapped into saying “yes.” If you aren’t fully IN and committed to the “yes,” you’re going to let that person down in the delivery and fulfillment of that commitment. You won’t jump in enthusiastically or do your best work, ultimately forsaking the promise you made.
We were conditioned as kids to see saying “no” as rude and impolite. I’m guilty of this with my own kiddo. Saying “no” doesn’t mean that you are being rude, selfish, or unkind. Saying “no” just means that you have your priorities in place and are focusing on them, while redirecting others to better opportunities.
Your time is valuable. Your presence is valuable. Your thoughts and decisions are valuable and VALID.
5. Finding value in the hours you work not in what you accomplish
When did glorifying "the hustle" become the norm? Why is it cool to brag about how you only got four hours of sleep last night? Why do we think that if you're not working yourself to death, you must not want "it" bad enough?
This is a trap that many business owners find themselves in. We start finding our self-worth in the amount of boxes we are checking off. If we aren’t crossing 15 things off our list each day, then did we even do anything? Glorifying the hustle and busyness is a manager mindset.
Glorifying the hustle and busyness is a manager mindset.
CEOs are keeping an eye on the big vision. If those checked boxes aren’t moving you closer to that big vision, what’s the point? If a tree falls in the forest but a checked box doesn’t move you closer to your big vision, did that task even matter? (haha)
Getting trapped in the hustle is part of every entrepreneurial story. It’s part of mine. I’m sure it’s part of yours. But this is a dangerous trap because it leads us to burn out.
We forget that our business is a result of the creator — you and me. Without fueling ourselves with energy, sleep, nutritious food, and “me time,” we can’t meet the demands that our visions have for us.
Take these steps as CEO:
Manage delegation effectively:
Make a list of everything you do every day — all the recurring tasks and projects that make your business run. Yes, everything.
Make a list of the things you do daily or weekly and separate them into four columns/categories:
Tasks ANYONE can do
Tasks a software program or app can automate for me
Tasks to eliminate because they don’t move me forward
Tasks that actually require my unique attention
Begin to think through what it would take to train someone else in these tasks
Begin to think of key hires you could make, contract out to, etc. — bookkeeping, admin, etc
Hone your ability to focus:
Create a designated work space. When you sit down at your desk, you’re telling your brain it’s time to focus and work.
Don’t push through. When you feel your energy and motivation waning, remove yourself from your work zone — take a walk, journal, make a snack, call a friend, write a note!
Stretch your creative muscles regularly — read a book, visit an art museum, pick up a hobby you really enjoy.
Create a daily work plan the night before, so you know exactly what’s on your plate at the start of every day.
Work with an expert rather than a generalist :
Trust the process. When you hire an expert, you won’t need to follow up behind them to make sure the work is getting done and getting done right. The expert you hire will have proven processes they can offer as an asset to your business.
Empower them to make decisions. Hand holding is going to stifle their creativity and expertise, and you won’t be garnering the full investment you’re making.
Evaluate your “yeses” :
Take a look at all the “yeses” you have committed to and evaluate if it was a good “yes.” Why or why not?
Have you ever missed out on an opportunity because you said “yes” to something that didn’t align with your goals and priorities?
When you are presented an opportunity, ask yourself these questions :
Does this align with my bigger vision?
Does this align with my company/personal values?
Do I feel obligated to this yes?
Do I actually have time for this?
Am I enthusiastic about this opportunity?
Will I get a proportionate ROI?
What is at stake if I say, “no”?
Move from hustle to inspired vision:
Move, Sleep, Eat, Repeat
Nurture your creative spirit
Remember, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. Seriously, nothing works if your body and mind break down. Take care of yourself so that when you are ready for the “hustle” you are fully ready.
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