Power of discipline

You know what it means. When you get that email from your team member that says, “Can I meet with you tomorrow morning?” Instinctively, you know they are quitting.

I knew instantly what the meeting would be about as soon as I received her text. And yet, as I sat across from her at the table in the local coffee shop and she told me she was moving on, I was shocked. My mind bounced around between, “How could you?” to “What on earth will I do without you?” to “What did I do wrong?” She was my right hand man, my rock and my teammate for life! I had envisioned building this business with her, and I had wild dreams of one day thanking her by buying her family a vacation home from the profits, staying best friends until we grew old, and touring the country telling our story. (I now know that this dreamy vision was my vision, and not necessarily hers.)

It wasn’t until several years later, as I sat all alone, with no company left and nothing but time to think and reflect, that I fully realized I had taken my undisciplined entrepreneurial life and projected it onto her. And I now understand that there is no loyal employee or co-worker on earth that can bear that burden forever. 

When you own a small business, that business becomes part of you. When you have the sole responsibility, set the goals, determine the direction, and – let’s face it – pay the bills, that business becomes part of the fabric of your soul. It takes discipline and understanding to realize that just because your makeup is now part-small business, it is not – and should not be – the makeup of your team members.

Through my experiences, I’ve learned that providing your team members life-space outside of your growing business is paramount to keeping them engaged. Here are some practical ways you can give your team members the freedom to live their lives beyond your business:

  • Require them to use vacation time and respect that time when they take it.
  • Ensure that when they leave the office, their time off the clock is their time alone; do not call and text them every night and throughout the weekend.
  • Keep a journal or notepad close by so you can document questions that arise or ideas that inspire you. Write them down and share them during designated business hours.
  • If it is not relevant to their official position on your team, do not project your business or financial stress onto them. Find an outside mentor or business coach whose role it is to help carry your burden and work through it.

The key to keeping your team engaged is remembering that your business is merely a part of their lives. When the workday is done, thank them for their time and hard work, and then allow them the freedom to live their own best life outside of your business hours.

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