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Need a Vacation? How to Make Your Company Run Without You

3 min read

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The summer is halfway over. Have you taken a vacation?

For most entrepreneurs, the answer is usually, "No." There's too much worry that when the cat is away, the mice will play.

Most small business owners I've met firmly believe that their business would not even exist if they were away and out of contact for six months. But for many, even taking a break for a few days can seem scary.

Business owners often feel too necessary. They fail to empower or motivate their employees in order to keep the game going while they are gone.

So before you give up on seeing your favorite beach or lake cabin this summer, here are four strategies to motivate your workers and make yourself less necessary:

Focus on the next action. People all too often procrastinate because they're suffering paralysis by analysis. Instead, they should simply ask, "What's the next action?" David Allen of the book Getting Things Done (Penguine Books, 2002) popularized this idea. Instead using up time gaming out an entire assignment, an employee should learn to focus on the immediate task at hand, and then figure out the next step later.

Create a culture that embraces failure. If you generally want your people to take action, to step in there and make something happen, then you have to be okay with the fact that they will fail. If you create a culture that celebrates "smart failures," than you can eliminate the stigma of failing and thereby inspire more action. Why not create an open blunder log for your business? Each entry should list the employee's job, the intent behind the action, the mistake, the impact of the mistake and what could be done to prevent it from happening again. And you should fess up to your own mistakes, too.

Set the bar high. Business owners commit to a higher standard than most people do. What people tend to do is to be okay with being good enough. As a whole what you want is to inspire a culture that does not settle for good, but is committed to being great.

Distinguish between effort and impact. One way to coach for greatness is to distinguish between the effort someone puts in and the excellence of their work. If you forget about the effort, you fail to celebrate it. When you coach your people, distinguish between the effort you saw them give, and the impact you thought they had. Don't forget to celebrate the effort. And don't let your superstar employees get away with only 80 percent.

Use these four strategies with your employees, and you'll be able to sleep easy on the beach, knowing that the business is running without you. If your team can run on autopilot, you'll be less necessary. And you can enjoy your summer.


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