The art of letting go for entrepreneurs growing their business

Establishing a business requires a different set of skills from sustaining it. While it takes vision, passion, and courage to start a business, it requires self-awareness to recruit, delegate, and empower a team, and grow a business.

An entrepreneur brings forward the courage to follow his instinct and take leaps of faith. Supported by a team of experts, an entrepreneur can deliver excellence and grow multifold. For a business to thrive beyond the life of the entrepreneur, it requires courage and wisdom to let go, communicate effectively, acknowledge people for their contribution, and, above all, transparency in the systems and processes.

In the last one year, the markets have witnessed the collapse of Yes Bank, ILFS, and DHFL due to compromised systems and processes, a lack of transparency, and abuse of power. The organisation that was the dream of the entrepreneur has come crashing down and impacted the lives of many. Is there a way to prevent such a debacle?

Establishing a business requires a different set of skills from sustaining it. While it takes vision, passion, and courage to start a business, it requires self-awareness to recruit, delegate, and empower a team, and grow a business. To institute a structure and sustain an organisation, an entrepreneur needs to design processes and let go.

No entrepreneur can ‘do it all’ and ‘know it all’. Therefore, when they engage experts by recognising that the insistence to be in control of everything obstructs the growth of the business, they make space for growth and institutionalisation. Self-awareness helps to harness the courage to let go of the fear of ‘not knowing’ and make space for the team to grow and succeed.

A higher vision like the Grameen Banks’s mission to empower people with microfinance, SEWA’s mission to empower women, Apple’s vision to change the way people engage with technology motivate people to join the movement and make a difference. A compelling vision motivates an entrepreneur to start putting the pieces of a business together – identity, plan, team, capital…and the work begins.

To sustain the momentum, there is need for commitment to the values and vision, processes, structure, policies and recruitment based on competencies. I remember, as the founding team for the ICF Mumbai Chapter of coaches, we designed a vision statement and presentation to showcase what’s in it for the stakeholders to become a member of the Chapter. The customer focus helped build trust with our stakeholders to launch the Chapter.

To recruit and retain the right talent, it is important to identify people who are aligned with the vision and values and can be a partner to the growth of the business.

Human capital is core to achieving the vision, and, therefore, to unleash human potential, an organisation needs to respect and accept people for ‘who they are’ and design teams that help to unleash potential.

Observing people objectively to identify unique attributes helped to build teams with complementing skills and experiences and deliver effectively. To implement initiatives, as Founder President, I engaged constantly with coaches, corporates and NGOs to develop relationships and understand how best to leverage their passion and skills.

This effort helped to unleash the creative power of the team to launch initiatives such as engagement with corporate leaders on how we could best partner as coaches, peer coaching, pro bono coaching for leadership capability development at NGOs, publishing a collection of coaching stories from across India, etc.

However, a year plus of running fast and delivering, I got feedback that I need to slow down to allow the team to not feel overwhelmed. Paying heed to the wisdom, I pulled back and started grooming a successor.

Effective communication is critical to managing a team. When communication only flows downwards or every detail is controlled, the entrepreneur is in danger of losing the talent.

However, when the team has the power to take decisions and even room to make mistakes, it feels a sense of ownership towards achieving the goals. A robust and agile structure helps the leader to supervise and let go with awareness.

I was working with a leader recently, who, pressed for time, started losing people rapidly and felt the heat of deliverables. In her zeal to deliver perfection, she would try to control every detail and be really hard on her team for any mistakes. People were demotivated with the constant feeling of being controlled, and they were scared to talk to her or take responsibility.

A vicious cycle of lack of trust had set in and she was engulfed with work. As she became aware that her need for perfection was derailing the team, she decided to be nicer to her team and empower people to take decisions. She became more accessible and less snappy. She did a thorough analysis of the team and processes, restructured the business and team, instituted systems for communication, and delegated effectively. This change in attitude freed up the leader to do what she did best – explore new possibilities and think creatively to grow the business.

A business is like a baby for most entrepreneurs. I often meet entrepreneurs who find it difficult to let go of their baby since they feel that only they know what is best for the business. They forget that entrepreneurship is an attribute of trusting that innate instinct within themselves; it is not limited to the business. Entrepreneurship extends into all facets of life and the courage and learnings unleashed through the business can be applied to explore other avenues of life.

(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)