My mom had a habit when we were growing up that never failed to embarrass when we were out in public. We would be walking by a flower bed…in front of a store, a neighbor’s house, or along the sidewalk…and she would reach out and impulsively “dead-head” the flowers. For those of you who didn’t have a mom with this compulsion, this means she would pick off the dead flowers on a plant. She told me why it was important – it is what keeps the plant full and healthy. Instead of diverting nutrients to dead or dying parts of the plant, the plant could focus its energy on producing new shoots and buds. It always bugged her to see the plants growing in a way that was not healthy.
My dad also went through an experiment of growing apple trees in our small yard. They had a number of requirements that we needed to learn to properly care for them, including pruning, in order to keep the trees healthy, shapely, and producing fruit. It was always a tad disturbing to see him lopping off huge portions of the tree, but, lo and behold, the little trees filled in quickly and started budding.
So when I heard one of my current favorite podcast hosts use the phrase, “there is no growth without pruning,” I was immediately brought back to the vividness of these childhood experiences.
As an entrepreneur, particularly one who is well past the start-up phase and looking to grow the my business into something scalable and sustainable, I find that I am constantly diverting my most precious resources, time and energy, to activities that are not going to drive new growth. I have dead-end tasks that I do because they are comfortable, because I feel like I am “sparing” others from them, or because I am “leading by example” to show I am not above small tasks. But that is bull. If I was a plant, I would immediately draw my mother’s attention, and she would be plucking dead-heads off me in no time.
Goodbye social media monitoring.
Goodbye project updates to clients.
Goodbye IT troubleshooting.
And many more.
Yes, it is painful and shocking to lop off those roles I have clung to, but I can already feel the new energy and opportunity taking the place of the old.
Of course, as a business owner, I have to ask: Would it be cheaper if I did those things myself? Only if I am thinking short-term and don’t trust my own ability to grow and lead the company. But I wouldn’t be in the role or have had the success we’ve had if that was the case.
When I announced my intentions to a few employees, I expected some eye rolling. After all, why should I get to shirk tasks that they have to do? Instead, I was met with more new energy – and some relief. “That’s great! I didn’t really want you to spend your time on that.” It made me realize that I wasn’t just hurting my own growth by hanging onto those roles. I was hampering their growth, and their opportunity for growth in the company. They could see it was time for a pruning before I could.
The only way I will grow personally and the only way I will grow my company is to prune away those activities that are keeping me from living into my role as CEO and leader of my company. Delegate and elevate. Work on the business not in the business. It isn’t a new realization, but the metaphor was a powerful one to me, and I wanted to share it with others looking to the new year as an opportunity for growth.
It won’t happen without some pruning. So get lopping.