What if I told you that the best way to do your job is to try and fire yourself?
Yes, I know it sounds weird and it might not be your definition of a successful career, but in the next few minutes, I'll share with you how I have gone through it and why it's important, not only for you but for everyone around you, everyone you care about.
Let's rewind 15 years ago when I co-founded our agency, it was just the two of us. Like in any startup, everyone who has gone through, it will know what I'm talking about, you really feel that you have all the responsibilities on your shoulders. You have to act as the lead operator, the marketer, and even the janitor every day. And just the thought of going on holiday just brings sheer panic... Like "everything is going to crash if I'm not there".
I remember a few years ago, we went on a trip to Dubai with my wife. It was such a beautiful place, like you've seen on postcards. We had amazing food, trips in the desert, beautiful buildings, the architecture, the Souk and the gold market... it was amazing. But it was such a busy period at work, that I didn't get to enjoy most of it. I was always checking emails, instant messages, making sure the projects were delivered on time, joining phone conferences... It was like: aaaaaargh. I even attended a last minute pitch meeting for a bank in my summer short, can you imagine?
Coming back, it made me think: why am I working so hard if I cannot enjoy it during my time off?
Something. Had. To. Change.
After that holiday, I got back into leadership books. I re-read the e-Myth from Michael Gerber, and re-watching some of the Simon Sinek videos, my favourite author and speaker on leadership. Really taking it back to the basics.
It really helped me refocus and decided to act on three main points:
- The first one was to start hiring more experienced managers.
- The second one, to document our process, our way of thinking and the way of doing work in the office.
- The third would be to force myself to delegate more.
Over the next couple of years, we managed to progress with this as a team. It was not always easy of course; you have to learn how to let go! It's like the first time you leave your baby with a babysitter, it can be really scary.
Even worse, you actually have to deal with new problems that you didn't have before... because excuse my French, but, well, I'm French, people will f*** up.
At the end of the day, it is the role of a leader: you have to set the vision, define the process and build this culture of caring for quality and trust, show the way. Not do it yourself, just show the way, show that you are replaceable, show that you are supportive of the team and you care for their success. Because if your team succeeds, you succeed.
We pushed really hard at that and reached a point where clients were not asking for me anymore. Projects were being delivered without me knowing, I was no longer a bottleneck on any projects... and I could finally enjoy my holiday.
Last year, when we went to Greece with my wife again, and our two wonderful daughters. I was just sitting at the pool, sipping a cocktail, and my phone was back in the hotel room. I did not miss it for a second! Because I knew that everything was taken care of in the office.
This is when I realised: Great, they don't need me to be the CTO anymore!
The team was empowered and proud of the impact they had. I was more relaxed and my wife and kids got 100% of me just being there, present. Everyone around me was so much happier and that is why we work so hard.
So back to you. Wherever you are in your career, whether you are the top boss, or a product manager or a team lead at any level: you really need to start making yourself irrelevant.
Not to the point of getting fired, of course, but to a place where you build the perfect team around you so that they don't need you anymore. And then you can move on to the next challenge in that company.
You really have a responsibility to your team, to your family, and more importantly to yourself.
So tell me, what are you going to start delegating on Monday?