As the actual day-to-day demands of running a business increase over time, it can be challenging to focus on being the kind of visionary leader you want to be.
While your business is working, you’re profitable, and things are going relatively well, you have the distinct feeling something is holding you back.
Before you start wasting precious time or money trying to “fix” what you think the issue may be, it’s in your best interest to do a deep dive to identify what your roadblocks really are.
To help you get set up for success, here are some ways to get started on figuring out what areas of your business may need attention.
Are You Doing the Work?
With so much needing to be done every day, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of not focusing on the right things. You can get stuck in the weeds and end up feeling like you just can’t catch your breath, let alone take time off.
So, where should you be spending your time?
As the leader, you can fall into the trap of doing more and more task-related work because we think we need to have our hands in everything, or we’re just used to flying solo. But being a true visionary leader means making the best use of your team.
If you’ve struggled to figure out which tasks you should keep and which you should delegate, it may be time to use the $10, $100, $1000 task matrix. The more tasks you can delegate, the more time you can spend on the highest value activities and being the leader of your team and business.
Much of what we say can get lost in translation when we’re not communicating effectively. Time is wasted with continual back-and-forth emails and calls that our precious time slips away.
Good communication starts with leading by example, and there are a few common culprits that can hamper communication and impact our ability to lead.
Not having clear expectations laid out or neglecting to provide proper direction to your team can leave them confused and floundering. Trying to communicate too much at one time and or not communicating in the right place often ends with valuable time being wasted on clarifications that could have been avoided.
Listening to/Implementing Expert Advice
One of the best decisions you can make as a leader is to accept that there are certain things you don’t know or simply aren’t in your wheelhouse. Turning to the experts, instead of spending too much time trying to figure out something on your own, has its merits.
You can choose to learn from the lessons and knowledge of others, and show your team that looking for guidance from subject matter experts isn’t only accepted but encouraged.
Focusing on Long-Term Solutions Versus Short-Term Fixes
There’s a tendency to get caught up in the weeds when there’s a crisis, and as the leader, sometimes, you need to get involved in finding solutions. But instead of spending your time putting out fires, you should be looking at how to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Maybe you need a project management system to get everyone on the same page, or perhaps it’s time to revamp some internal processes. Whatever the solution is, as the visionary leader, your role is to be forward-thinking and consider the big picture of the business.
Once you have a better idea of what you should be spending your time on, the next step is to figure out the areas in the business that may need to be dealt with for you to be an effective visionary leader.
Fact: You need boundaries when it comes to preserving your sanity.
We often equate the idea of having boundaries with being selfish, but that’s simply not the case. Good boundaries help you create a stronger foundation for your business, and when you enforce your boundaries, everyone will know exactly what to expect when engaging with you.
While you may initially think you only need boundaries with your clients, as the leader of the business, it extends far beyond that.
Some key areas to consider when working to shore up your boundaries:
Do you have certain days you do calls, or is your schedule all over the place? Consider blocking off specific time frames to do your calls so that you’re not constantly context switching, and you’re able to be more productive.
Do you have set hours you work each week, or is it more “anything goes”? Lack of boundaries on work hours can not only lead to burnout but can also create unrealistic expectations with clients when it comes to response times outside of the business day. Creating some scheduling boundaries sets the tone for both you and your clients.
Do your various deliverables have a turnaround timeline? Or do you just fly by the seat of your pants from one project to the next? Having set processes and boundaries around your deliverables makes it easier for your team to be successful and for your clients to know what to expect.
Start getting organized by creating a deliverables and deadlines list. Jot down all the deliverables you provide for clients, making sure to include everything whether they’re project-based, retainer-based or add ons. Including your team in this exercise can be very helpful as there may be things you overlook.
Once you have your list together, then you can begin to map out how long everything takes to complete. This will be an estimate, but it should be rooted in fact. How long will take if there are no other distractions on your plate? What sort of workload do you currently have? If you’re already at capacity, quick turnaround times may be a challenge, so build your deadlines around what you can realistically achieve when you have a full workload.
Clients you’ll take on
Do you have set parameters for what types of clients you’ll take on? Certain industries or business types you work with? A great visionary leader understands who their target market is and focuses on working with those types of clients. If you know that certain client types end up pushing your boundaries and stretching your team past a point that is comfortable, it’s time to consider tightening up your client roster.
Expenses you’ll keep or eliminate
Do you know which expenses are needs versus wants? Paying for certain things makes sense, like having a virtual assistant to free up time you were spending on administrative work. But perhaps you’re someone who tends to run out and buy things because they’re new and shiny and exciting, so having clear boundaries around what is or isn’t necessary for your business to run effectively is critical.
Your approach to money management will evolve as your business grows, which is why getting a handle on your finances and having a firm foundation for money management is critical.
If you’re going to figure out how you can be more effective as a leader, you need to know what is eating up your time each day.
The best way to do this is to start time tracking. (And, yes, I know you may have rolled your eyes at the idea of doing this, but trust me, this exercise is valuable.)
We often underestimate how much time we spend on certain tasks or forget to account for some tasks completely.
As the leader of your business, you should be spending your time on high-level tasks, so understanding where your time goes presents an opportunity to see which tasks can be offloaded to someone else.
If tracking your time feels like an overwhelming task, don’t worry — you don’t have to make it complicated.
If you don’t already use time tracking software for your business, you can start by coming up with key categories your work falls into, and then track your time under each one.
Your categories could include:
- Client work
- CEO time
- Content creation
- Team management
- Administrative tasks
You may not realize it, but if you’re holding on to too many things, you can end up being the bottleneck in your business and slowing everything down.
When you’re the bottleneck, it means things are running relatively smoothly, but when items get to your desk, projects or tasks are held up.
Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do about having a backlog, but if you’ve identified this is a common occurrence, it’s time to act — not just for you, but also for your team.
Here are some possible signs you’re the bottleneck:
- Your team can’t function without you.
- Your team is constantly waiting on you for follow up.
- You end up doing all the things because no one else can.
- There’s too much that lives only in your head.
- You need to approve every single thing before it goes out — even when you probably don’t need to.
If any of those sounds familiar, it’s time to step up and be the leader. How that looks will be different for everyone, but there are likely fundamentals in your business that need to be addressed — lack of systems, not enough resources or delegation from you — in order to remove the bottlenecks.
This is a common issue with entrepreneurs who’ve transitioned from running things solo to having a team, so it’s also critical to examine your own mindset. Feeling like you’re giving up control can be hard, but it’s necessary if you want to continue to grow your business and truly step into the role of the visionary leader.
Part of what I do as an online business manager is to help people who are struggling with this — like my client Courtney Chaal.
Refining Your Ideas
Entrepreneurs are known for having tons of ideas — which is great — unless those ideas are bogging you down and keeping you from being effective in your role as a leader. Here are some ways to get your ideas under control.
You have a million ideas.
Being creative and coming up with new and inventive ideas is wonderful, but at some point, you’ll need to pick a lane if you want to see those ideas come to fruition.
One way to tackle this is to start by sorting and organizing your ideas based on which business goals they support. This exercise is a great starting point to weed out things that are distractions.
Once you know which ideas fit into each category, then you can begin the process of deciding which ones to take action on now and which ideas you can table for the future.
You’re great at starting but not finishing.
This can be frustrating for both you and the people who work for you. You have that feeling that you never quite meet your goals, and your team may feel like time is wasted on things that never make it to the finish line.
Effective communication is a key element in building a successful team and reducing frustration. Do they understand WHY you’re headed in the direction you’re going? Have they been allowed to provide their feedback on how what you’re doing could be improved upon or get you to the finish line more efficiently? Are they being overloaded with one-off projects that impact their ability to complete their regular tasks?
Visionary leaders understand that the team needs to buy into the work being done, so engaging them in the entire process, instead of just giving orders, will make it more likely your ideas can come to fruition.
You have trouble organizing your ideas.
If you find it hard to link your vision and the reality of bringing an idea to life, you may need to consider systems that help you map out a project management plan.
To get started on organizing your ideas, consider creating a process that gives you the opportunity to take note of ideas as they come. Find a way to do that that’s compatible with your work style.
Some options to keep you organized include:
- Set up a Google Doc where you record your ideas on an ongoing basis.
- If verbal processing is more your speed, use a voice recorder, and then have it transcribed. From there, it can be added to wherever you’re tracking ideas.
- If doing it the old fashion way is easier, get yourself a notebook, and write out ideas. You can create a task to periodically have your notebook entries added to a spreadsheet or a more permanent home.
- Create a task list in your project management software where you can add ideas as they arise.
Supporting Your Team
Every great leader needs a supporting cast — but you have to lean on them!
Having a great supporting cast begins with finding the right people to join your team, and like most business owners, you may have made some hiring mistakes along the way. Of course, there’s no way to be 100% guaranteed that someone you’re hiring is going to work out, but by starting from a place of understanding what support you can offer someone new you’ll at least be on the right path.
By building a stronger team, you’re laying the foundation for a thriving business.
People you work with often have varying degrees of effectiveness, so if you have team members not performing at the level you’d like, you need to identify what the issues are.
This can create a challenge for you getting things off your plate if you don’t have the right people to pass them off to.
Consider the following when trying to determine the effectiveness of your team:
- Is there a gap in capabilities?
- Are you asking them to take care of tasks not within their skill set?
- If so, can what you need from them be taught/learned?
If you want to step into your role as a visionary leader, the bottom line is that you’ll likely need to spend the time doing a deep dive into your business and look for new ways to operate more efficiently. In many cases, that means bringing in someone, like an online business manager, who can provide a fresh perspective for managing the business and collaborate with you on reaching your business goals.
Are you ready to embrace your role as a visionary leader? I can help! Book a consult call right here.