Maintaining Poise Amid Major Life Events

Dec. 31, 2019
Staying composed as a leader isn’t always easy when your personal life is thrown for a loop, but it helps to take time away from work to refocus.

Long ago, one of my eventual mentors showed up at our 20 Group meeting, to be voted in. So, we were questioning him, and he said something I’ll never forget. 

He said “Hey, my name is Tim Beal, and I have a shop in Arizona. I work a couple days a month, and I travel the rest of the time.” 

I remember thinking, ‘Is this some kind of joke?’ At that time, I was working 15 hours a day. But, I thought about it a bit and came to a realization: I could probably learn something from this guy. Well, we voted him, and I learned that Tim had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. And, during his his big health scare, he went into his shop virtually every day and wrote down his usual tasks, and started assigning many of them to his employees. 

Initially, Tim didn’t know if he’d ever come back from his big surgery. But, he eventually did, and when Tim returned to his shop it was running even better than when he left. 

So, I’ve taken that concept, and I apply it as my business gets busier and busier. At least once a year I sit back and look at the duties I’m doing and I write them down. I note the duties I have that others could, theoretically, handle. Then, I start assigning those tasks out until I get my workload back to a manageable point. 

Because you just never know what a new day could throw your way. You and your spouse 

might be blessed with a pregnancy. Or, a loved one could be hospitalized. As a matter of fact, I got to work this morning and I had an employee whose mom just went into a coma. 

You have to be as prepared as possible for life’s unexpected events. Especially as a business leader. 

That’s why it’s important to take inventory—either daily, monthly, or quarterly—and evaluate your usual duties, deciding if it’s something that somebody else on staff could handle. And guess what: When you say “Hey, I need this off my plate,” employees usually take a lot of pride in taking those projects on, in my experience.

It’s also important that, as a leader, you set your business up to survive if you need to take time away from the job. If you believe that you have to be there for your business to run correctly then, chances are, you’re making some mistakes. You need to strive for your shop to run as well—if not better—when you’re gone. 

The epitome of being a great leader is that you don’t need to be on-site for things to go right.

If you think about it, in some cases, shop owners actually slow their business down when they’re there. I know when I’m in the office, I might say ‘Hey, let’s sit down and have a meeting about this.’ But, if I’m not here, then my employees simply do their jobs the way they’ve been taught to do them. If you want to set your shop up for success and growth, you have to be able to step away and have it run similarly. In a worst-case scenario, you at least learn what fails when you step away. 

It’s important to be prepared for life’s challenges. One thing I preach to my staff is that my personal life will never affect their life. Nothing that ever happens in my life will make it so you can’t go home on time. Nothing that happens in my life will ever keep you from getting a paycheck. 

I can tell you that my life is more in order now than it was 15 years ago. Here’s proof: I was on a vacation recently in Mexico and had been gone for 5 or 6 days when an employee called me with a random question. He didn’t realize I had been out of the shop. It was a major relief to me to know that my absence wasn’t severely impacting anyone’s life. Earlier in my career, I would spend half my vacation taking work-related phone calls. 

Life throws unexpected challenges your way. But, as a business leader, if you empower your staff correctly, then you don’t have to be there to have your business keep rolling along smoothly.

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