No matter where I’ve worked or what I did while I was there, one thing was constant across every business I’ve ever worked with: business owners are control freaks.

I get it. It’s their baby, their blood sweat, and tears, their reason to live, and they need to make sure it works exactly the way they want it to, every time. Nobody likes compromising on their creative vision, right?

This is all well and good…at first. You need a strong vision to set the tone and pace of your business in the early years, and being a bit of a control freak can help your team learn how to best do the things that define your business, like interacting with customers, the quality of work you expect, and so on.

But (and there’s always a but with this sort of thing, isn’t there?) maybe there will come a time when you need to step back. Unless you’re okay running a two-person operation forever, your business will inevitably grow to the point where you can’t micromanage and control every single thing yourself. Maybe you’ve hired a lot of people, maybe you’re looking towards retirement or a hiatus, or maybe you just finally need another helping hand around the office.

A lot of you business owners probably got chills just thinking about it, but that’s okay! That just means you’re invested and engaged with your business. Chances are, however, there will come a day when you need to at least start thinking about shifting your focus elsewhere. If you’re thinking about reducing or changing your task focus at work, but you’re too scared to let go or are just not sure how to start disconnecting yourself, here are five tips I’ve found to help make the whole thing a little less scary and make sure things keep getting done just the way you like:

Step 1: Create, Document, and Share Your Processes

Much like Yoda teaching Luke Skywalker the ancient ways of the Force, as your management staff increases, you’ll need to serve as a guardian of the old ways. The old business owner’s trick of “keeping the recipe in your head” is all well and good when it’s just you working there, but if you want to make sure your new hires get things done exactly how you want them to without you having to be there every day, you’re going to want to document your most important processes somewhere they can be easily reviewed.

This blog post from InCredibly describes it as writing a “playbook” – leave some tangible instructions for the big things (client interaction, daily task processes, HR management, etc.) behind for when you’re on vacation, retired, or otherwise indisposed. (And do try to make sure everyone else knows where they are, otherwise, they’re not going to help anyone!)

Step 2: Delegate the Small Stuff First

Think of this as an ongoing process towards letting go: you don’t want to immediately find someone else to do all your work and make it their problem on day one, do you? When you start handing off your responsibilities, Forbes.com suggests starting with the less critical tasks, or at the very least the things you can get someone else to do. Too busy to run your company’s Twitter account anymore? Found someone who can fill out invoices? Start with the smaller-but-still-important things and work your way up the list of tasks from there.

Step 3: Find The Right People For Each Task

Take a second to pat yourself on the back – odds are, it’s going to take a decent-sized team of people to do the work you (used to) do by yourself. And while that might be a nice little ego boost for a second, the time will eventually come when you realize you need to find the best people possible for each task. Don’t just look at things like job titles or seniority, take the advice from this post from The Muse and assign tasks to people that will actually play to their strengths. Some people are better at project management than others, some people are better at client emails than others, and finding who fits what role best will help you avoid any cliches about square pegs.

Step 4: Learn To Give Some Breathing Room

To this point, all of my suggestions have been based around leaving clear instructions and finding people to implement them, which works on paper. As you’ve learned from the time you’ve spent as a business owner, however, flexibility and going-with-the-flow are key when it comes to solving problems and getting things done, and this is going to go double for training people to take up your tasks.

As mentioned in this Art of Manliness post about leadership, learn to be flexible, let them figure out how to get things done in a way that works for them, and give them some freedom and breathing room to learn how to accomplish these new tasks along the way. As long as the goal is the same and it’s being done to your satisfaction, why give yourself an ulcer worrying about how you would have done it in their shoes?

Step 5: Remember To Say “Thanks”

Not to imply that you’re the ungrateful sort, but if you need to start delegating your bigger tasks, a lot of people are going to wind up taking on extra responsibility and a little gratitude is going to go a long way. Meister Task suggests showing people what they did well on and what you’d like to see them continue doing going forward. This reinforcement will help create a roadmap for what they need to keep doing in the future, and will help inspire loyalty and satisfaction among your teammates. (And who doesn’t like being told ‘thank you’ every once in awhile, right?)

Hopefully when all is said and done you’ll have some peace of mind that life can go on without you, at least when it comes to your job. Don’t be afraid to pass the baton every once in awhile, and who knows – maybe you’ll learn to like it.

Tim Allen
Tim Allen is a freelance writer from Michigan whose work stems from movie reviews, video game analysis, and general pop-culture musings, to his more 'grown-up' writing such as small business, digital marketing, and the role of technology in industries like gambling and business communication. If you need some lengthy content about any of the previous topics, you can find him at t.david.allen@gmail.com

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