“What a disaster,” I said to myself. I was mortified. It was the first time one of my employees made a big enough mistake that a client had called me to complain (and ask for a credit). I remember the feeling of embarrassment as I heard them say over the phone, “Look, Debbie, we know your work is great, but your staff doesn’t have your experience. They don’t understand what we really need.
The only way we want to keep working with you is if you do the work yourself.”
I stared out the office window thinking, “What do I do now?” I couldn’t personally do all the work for this client and still write proposals, train and manage my team, check the other project plans and deliverables, approve all the client invoices, and interview the candidates for the position I wanted to fill. But this was one of my first clients – they believed in me from the start; how could I let them down?
I worried if I told them no, they would cancel our contract and hire a competitor, and then rumors about our quality would damage our great reputation. I decided I just had to find a way to make them happy, so I agreed to finish the project myself. Nothing was more important than our reputation for quality – nothing.
After all, the company was an extension of me!
In my mind I thought if clients were not happy with my company, it meant there was something wrong with me. I never questioned whether this thought was a fact.
I knew the reason I wasn’t growing faster was that I was stuck doing the actual work of the business (logging billable hours and managing the team) instead of working on the business (strategy, systems, marketing). The reason most of us do this is because we know how to do the work of the business, and we’re good at it. It’s one of the reasons we wanted our own company in the first place – to have the freedom to “do it our way.”
Our brains get a little dopamine rush when we complete a task that we know how to do, which is why we keep wanting to do those things.
But there was another reason our growth was stunted. It was because being a successful business owner had become the core of my identity. When business was good, it meant that I was good. When there was a problem, it meant that something was wrong with me.
I was measuring my self-worth by my success in business, which meant everything had to be perfect, and for everything to be perfect, I had to be in control of it all. This led me to overwork and overmanage. I was burning myself out and slowly alienating my team.
I thought the success or failure of my business determined my worth.
If this story resonates, you may also be looking for your business to validate your worth. When your business is your identity, and your self-esteem is tied to its success, you may think every time something goes wrong it’s a reflection of your value as a person. I learned this belief is a trap.
It’s a trap because it leads us to think that something outside of ourselves is responsible for how we feel. But the truth is how we feel about anything is because of the way we think about it. If we don’t feel good about our business (or ourselves), it’s because of our thoughts.
The reason this is important is because you can choose your thoughts on purpose. This means you decide how you feel. And that’s most important of all because how you feel drives the actions you take and the results you get. The difference between feeling confident (instead of unsure), feeling excited (instead of exhausted) – can literally be millions of dollars.
Once I learned this, I realized it didn’t mean anything about me personally when my staff made a mistake. It just meant they didn’t understand, didn’t have enough time, or I had the wrong person. It was just information that I should use to make a decision, not a verdict on my worthiness.
If you’re tired of the results you’re getting, why not learn my process for managing your mind while you scale your business? When you change your focus, which means choosing your thoughts on purpose, your feeling, actions, and results will change too.