The invisible workload

I saw a post over the holidays talking about the invisible workload of the holiday season and the weight of having to think about & plan everything… getting gifts, coordinating family dinners, putting decorations up, putting decorations away and taking care of ‘all the things’. As a mom I could totally relate!

This is referred to as the invisible workload because even if we aren’t the one doing everything, we are the one THINKING about all the things and making all the decisions. Who is going to bring dessert for family dinner? What gifts should we get the kids? When do we put up the xmas lights? Should we take the tree down on new years day or wait? I could go on.

And even if we have help in the household – a spouse, partner or kids – we are still the ones having to ASK folks to do things. Sometimes more than once. (something I’m very familiar with having 2 teenage daughters in the house… I’ve asked my daughter to take her dishes upstairs twice already today ;-)

As I read this post it occurred to me – this happens in our businesses as well!

How much of what we ‘do’ each day falls into the invisible workload category? Things that aren’t obvious and that we can’t necessarily check off a to-do list, but that can take up a surprising amount of time & energy.

Things like:

  • Thinking about what needs to be done – when, how and by who
  • Delegating what needs to be done – we may not be doing the work but having to ‘pass it along’ to someone else still takes time
  • Following up on tasks – checking in with folks re: “what is the status of this?” is work, in particular when things aren’t getting done or are falling behind
  • Making decisions – be it big or small decisions, there is energy required to think through everything so we can decide (and decision fatigue is a very real thing)

Now to some degree the invisible workload is just part of the gig – as business owners there is always thinking & decision making to be done.

But as our businesses grow we simply don’t have the capacity – or the desire! – to keep all of this invisible workload on our plates. And it can start to show over time through exhaustion, frustration or by things being stalled waiting for our input & decisions.

There are a few things you can do when you find the invisible workload is becoming too much:

  • Hire an OBM to take some of the invisible workload off your shoulders – once you hit the early to mid 6-figure range there is simply too much going on to keep it all on your own shoulders. An OBMs expertise is taking your vision/goals and turning those into actionable plans, getting the right folks in place and ensuring that the work is getting done on time and correctly.
  • Lead your team to take more ownership of their role – where is your team relying on you to make decisions or tell them what to do? Work together to clarify their role and lay out expectations of where they can take more ownership and make decisions on their own.
  • Look to simplify where possible – are you trying to do too many things at once? As a visionary I can easily fall into the trap of “let’s do all these things and do them now!!” which of course means more thinking, decisions and delegation. Instead of trying to do 3 things this month, what if you focused on doing only 1?

I’m curious – where/how do you feel like the invisible workload is showing up in your business?

And if you are an OBM/service provider – where could you take more of the invisible workload off your client’s plate? They may not be asking you for this, but I assure you they will thank you for it when you do!

Accountability

Have you created a culture of accountability in your business?

Or are you just assuming (hoping) people will ‘get stuff done’?

Every leader wants to have a team of folks who are accountable. Who take responsibility and get their stuff done correctly and on time. (This is also referred to as a self-managing team.)

But not all leaders get that it is THEIR responsibility to create a culture of accountability.

Accountability is not a solo act – it’s not just about hiring the right person, crossing your fingers and hoping they will (finally!) be the one to get stuff done. On time. Correctly.

Accountability is the RESULT of your leadership – of all the things that come before the stage of actually getting the work done.

Does your team get the overall vision and direction of the company? <– folks want to be a part of something bigger than themselves

Does each person understand their role in service of the big picture? <- folks want to understand why their work matters

Are you making clear requests? <– there are 3 parts to a clear request, it’s not just “hey, do this thing”

Have you set an expectation of what you are looking for? <– it’s important to lay out what successful completion of a task or project looks like

How are you ensuring that your team is operating in their strengths? <– many problems arise when we ask folks to do stuff that, truthfully, they shouldn’t be doing at all…

Are you on the same page re: deadlines & priorities? <– SOOO many problems arise here, especially when there’s a lot going on.

How are you going to communicate with each other around progress? <– if you aren’t in the loop re: progress then don’t be surprised when progress isn’t being made

What happens if your team member gets stuck? Or falls behind? <– how are you there to support them through this? (vs. just leaving them to fend for themselves…)

This is exactly what we are going to be working through together – and what I’ll be teaching – in my new team leadership workshop coming up later this month (reply to this email for details…)

Here’s the bottom line:

Like many things in life – you get out of it what you are willing to put into it.

Team is not just about ‘finding the right person’ – so that you can get back to work and they can just *magically* get stuff done (with little to no effort on your part.)

It’s about working together – especially in those early days – so that you can all be on the same page, working towards a common goal, each of you in your strengths. It’s about supporting each person to do their best work, to be allowed to make mistakes, to keep learning and to empower them to be all they are meant to be.

Accountability is not a solo act – it’s the result of strong leadership.

Encouraging your team to make mistakes

“Say what? Why the heck would I want to encourage my team to make mistakes?”

As I’ve been prepping for a new team leadership course that I’m working on (details coming soon) one of the things I’ve come to see is this:

There are a lot of businesses out there that have a culture of perfectionism.

And perfectionism could be the very reason why their team is struggling.

A culture of perfectionism means that people feel like they have to do it right. The first time. All the time.

And when they mess it up or make a mistake, it becomes a BIG deal.

They become so afraid of making mistakes that they can end up:

  • constantly second guessing themselves
  • getting caught up in every little detail to the point they don’t get things done
  • relying on other people (you?) to give them the right answers or tell them what to do before taking action
  • quitting because they are too overwhelmed and stressed out about it all

Put simply, when it’s not OK to make mistakes then people can’t do their best work. And that is a problem.

Now perfectionism can be sneaky… as leaders we may not even realize that we have created a culture of perfectionism!

Perfectionism sneaks in when we do things like:

  • Take over when someone makes a mistake. When our response is “just let me fix it”… instead of empowering them to fix the mistake on their own
  • Expect them to ‘hit the ground running’ the day we start working together… and then question why things aren’t happening as quickly as we would like. (It takes time for people to get to know you and your business.)
  • Let someone go the moment something is done wrong or it feels like something is missing… vs. digging deeper to see if it can be resolved (others on the team will see this happening too)
  • Get outwardly mad or frustrated when someone makes a mistake… it’s OK to feel mad or frustrated (we are all human!) but to lead and respond from that place is damaging. Especially when it happens on a regular basis.
  • Hang over their shoulder and question their every move, with things like “why are you doing it that way? I would have done it this way”…
  • Question their recommendations or advice, especially when you’ve hired them to bring those recommendations to you.

“So does this mean I just let mistakes slide?”

Heck no! We don’t want mistakes to happen on a regular basis, and nor do we want to just let things slide when they do.

Encouraging mistakes means that we create a culture where two things are true:

  1. It’s OK to make mistakes
  2. We EMPOWER our team to fix their mistakes

When we create a culture where it’s OK to make mistakes a few things start to happen. People start taking more action because they aren’t getting as caught up in “I have to do it right!!” They move faster. They become more creative and innovative. They are more engaged in their work. They may also bring more caring to their work (because they are no longer afraid of judgement or having to operate in defensive mode all the time.)

And when they do make a mistake – because lets be real, we all do – then they are empowered to fix it. To explore options and bring solution to the table. To get support from you or other team members as needed. To do what it takes to make it right AND prevent it from happening again in the future.

I’ve always said that I don’t care if someone on my team makes a mistake – what I do care about is if they are willing to own it and fix it. And in my 20+ years of being in business I have yet to see a mistake that couldn’t be fixed…

Here’s to making more mistakes! So that we may move forward faster & together.

Boundaries

Boundaries have been a biggie for me the past couple of months.

I’ve had to stand my ground on a few things. Have some really tough discussions. Hold people accountable to their agreements.

Keeping it real… it’s been tough. And empowering at the same time.

The toughest part for me is knowing that enforcing these boundaries and agreements has made other people unhappy, mad and upset with me.

And I hate that part. My ‘people pleasing’ tendencies run deep and I really struggle when I know my actions/decisions cause other people to feel this way.

I don’t like upsetting people. I want people to like me. I’m sure there are all kinds of reasons why I’m ‘wired’ this way, and without diving too deep into what those reasons are – as a default I am a people pleaser.

AND yet…

Boundaries are a necessity in business.

When we break it down, a boundary is about two things:

  • setting an agreement
  • enforcing an agreement

Setting an agreement is one thing – and in many ways it’s the easier thing!

Enforcing an agreement is where it gets tough. <– And this is where many of us (myself included!) can let things slide…

We might ignore the little things that are showing up. Maybe a team member is constantly late with their work, but we know they are having a rough time at home so we don’t talk to them about it. Or you have an agreement with your client that you don’t work past 5pm, but they constantly ask you for things late in the day and you do it “just this one time” (again and again…)

We might avoid the bigger things as well. You were promised something in an agreement that you didn’t receive, but you don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ so you don’t bring it up.

Whenever we don’t enforce the agreements that we’ve made – we are out of integrity. With ourselves. With others. And with our business.

Whenever we make our decisions from ‘well I don’t want to upset this person’ or ‘it’s not that big of a deal’, that is breaking the agreement that we’ve made.

And we are left feeling powerless. Resentful. Deflated. To the point where our business relationships may (will?) fall apart. And often not in a nice way.

Put simply – don’t make agreements that you aren’t willing to enforce.

Enforcing agreements can be hard AND it is some of the most empowering work you can do in your business. To stand your ground. To have the tough conversations. To not let things slide. To say ‘no’ or to say ‘hey, we need to talk about this.’

I’ve made decisions lately that were best for the business and that I knew would be upsetting to others. Some days I made those decisions with tears streaming down my cheeks, it was that emotional for me. But I did it none the less.

I was saying to a friend the other day, “I feel like I’m a grown up business owner now”. (Putting on my big girl panties as they say ;-)

We become empowered when we do the tough stuff. And boundaries are tough stuff.

2021 Trends for Online Service Providers

As we look back to 2020 – and ‘ease’ into 2021 – what can we expect as service providers? What are the opportunities for us out there today and how can we make the most of them?

To say 2020 was a doozy of a year is to put it mildly, and yet it was a year that opened up all kinds of doors for online service providers… put simply, the world came online last year and you are needed more now than ever. So whether you are a virtual assistant, online business manager, copywriter, funnel builder, web designer or otherwise… if you provide ‘done for you’ services of any kind now is your time.

Carrying the weight of your business on your shoulders

There is a simple truth that we don’t talk about enough as we grow.

And that is – the bigger your business grows, the heavier it is… the more responsibility you carry.

You are responsible for taking care of clients and team. Making sure everyone is happy.

You are responsible for the work – making sure everything gets done correctly and on time.

You are responsible for making enough money to pay for it all. Paying for team. Marketing. Systems. And hopefully paying yourself!

Let’s be real – it is a heavy burden to carry at times. Especially when you feel like you have to carry it all on your own.

I’m very much a ‘do it myself’ kind of gal. My default mode is to jump in, figure it out and make it happen.

This was a huge part of my success in the early years! When it was just me and my clients.

But when I hit the 6-figure mark it stopped working. It became too much.

Too much work to do.

Too many decisions to make.

Too much to keep track of.

What used to be my strength – rolling up my sleeves and taking care of things on my own – became my weakness.

And this is where my growth stalled. Where my income became stuck.

Because there simply wasn’t enough of me to go around anymore.

When I learned how to shift this – how to shift from doer to CEO – then everything opened up and things began to flow again.

My income doubled practically overnight. My team was rocking and getting stuff done without my having to constantly ask.

I got back to working sane hours – and no weekends! – doing the stuff I loved.

And I felt free – the weight I had been carrying around on my shoulders was gone.

I no longer felt like I had to do it all on my own.

THIS is the work we do together in my CEO Activator – the shift from doer to CEO.