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The Therapist’s Guide to Leading a Business Without Losing Your Mind

The suit-and-tie world of business couldn’t possibly stand to learn anything from the mushy, touchy-feely world of psychotherapy, right?

Wrong.

When you look at the core principles of leadership and therapy, you find that both smack of the same notions. Mind you, the similarities aren’t always intuitive, but then again, little in business – or self-discovery, for that matter – usually is.

As a business owner, I’m sure you’re overwhelmed with all you have to manage at times. When that happens, take a age of the therapist’s book (and not necessarily in the way you might think).

Why You’re Stressed Out No Matter What You Do

Too many business owners fall into the same pit of illogical thinking. They see they have a problem, such as an important task needing immediate attention, and they think, “I’m the boss. This must be a job for me.”

Not always.

Accompanying that error in judgment are several more. They think they have the fastest hands and the ones that can produce the best work. They think pressing concerns are, by nature, most at home on the boss’ desk.

Not always.

In their brow-sweating quest to accomplish this task, their blinders go up. They lose sight of the team that supports them, who would happily take on the extra responsibilities if only they were given the chance – or at the very least considered for it.

Maybe they had a bad experience with delegation once before. An employee under-delivered; a message failed to reach its target. As a result, all connotations of the word “delegation” have soured. Rather than being synonymous with help, it’s grown to reflect a crumbling sense of power.

So they swallow their stress. As the company grows, so does the stress. And with that added stress comes an avalanche of other problems related to the ones that have been collecting dust for years. And suddenly leaders are overwhelmed, forgetting why they started their businesses in the first place and fighting an uphill battle against snowballing problems that refuse to melt away.

But there’s hope.

There’s Another Option: Dig Deep Like a Shrink

In its most basic form, therapy is about helping people become the best vision of themselves. This approach can work wonders for your business.

When the number of challenges just won’t stop growing, and seeking help feels like an admission of failure, keep in mind that the most successful business owners help people dig deep and use their own internal strengths to the best effect. In other words…they delegate.

“Delegation,” writes Dr. Scott Williams, from the Wright State University Raj Soin College of Business, “means more than simply giving assignments to others. It means giving another party a certain degree of discretion that’s not inherent in their role – the right to make decisions that are officially tied to your role and for which you are ultimately responsible.”

The best therapists empower patients to realize their tools for success were within them all along.

Chart a Path

Great therapists know where they want their patients to end up. They also know that techniques that are helpful in dealing with one patient could be paralyzing for another. So they plan a unique route to mental health for each person they deal with and then walk them through it with tiny steps. If the patient isn’t responding as planned at any stage, they readjust.

You should do the same.

Decide what success looks like and how it is you’ll get there. Then take a look at your team members and ruthlessly parse out which skills fit best into the model of success you envision. If you don’t have the resources already, figure out what you need to get you there, whether it’s your money or time, and act accordingly.

If it’s sales you’re after, keep track of how you usually go about securing new leads. In addition, monitor how often those leads convert into new business. Track your behavior. Analyze the success rate. Rework and repurpose.

Do you notice a difference in one case that’s successful versus one that goes bottom-up? Maybe it’s the processing time for each lead, or the fact your company interacts with them via faceless auto-responses, rather than face-to-face contact.

If you’re in the non-profit sphere, ask yourself how you could make fundraising more effective. Ensure your financial information is up-to-date. Look at the way you communicate with your audience and decide if you’re doing the best job possible in getting your point across effectively.

And most importantly, in both cases, be unafraid to let someone else relieve your burdens. That’s what they’re there for, even if you are responsible for the outcome.

Otherwise you could end up in therapy yourself, in which case you’ll hear the same stuff all over again.

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About the author, David Shriner-Cahn

David is the podcast host and community builder behind Smashing the Plateau, an online platform offering resources, accountability, and camaraderie to high-performing professionals who are making the leap from the corporate career track to entrepreneurial business ownership.

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