Trivina Barbara, speaker, author and its founder Priority VAA team placement and leadership development company that helps leaders build teams that they can trust.
I was known for working with hard-to-fit clients. I listened to their complaints, petty aggression, worries and anxieties that none of their recruits could do the job well.
Such clients were annoyed by their high turnover rate and wondered why they could not find a peer worth their salt.
Unfortunately, none of these leaders saw that they were common holders in a failed attempt to form a trusted team.
Over the years of matching business owners with executive support professionals, I’ve learned that leaders who find a lot of mistakes with their employees tend to ignore hard truths about themselves.
It’s easier for them to blame and find someone new than to take ownership of their leadership. Of course, there are bad apples. I have certainly hired a few myself. But, when you replace an assistant every six to 12 months, your leadership can go wrong.
Depression is a sick cycle
My observations are not shared from a pedestal. Personal issues put me in an unhealthy cycle when I first started VA. I have taught clients about the benefits of outsourcing to a trusted executive assistant but have struggled to do the same.
I’m worried, “Can I trust an assistant to do the same quality as me?”
It was only when I was close to exhaustion that I decided to recruit relief.
My new teammates removed the work from my plate, yes, but their presence invited a new kind of work. One for which I had to face latent belief and control issues that I had long neglected.
Like many entrepreneurs, I have fought the fear of giving up. I have micromanaged my assistant’s performance and have bound myself to the work for which I am paying someone else. Ah, embarrassment!
I’ve become a helicopter CEO, a leader who hovers over their team because they don’t believe their expectations are being met. I was also a reactionary leader. The mistake really bothered me. I blamed my assistant for the error And I blamed myself Someone to make me look bad.
Then a cycle will begin. One I call “the sick cycle carousel of despair.” Something like this is happening:
When a leader finds fault, or doesn’t like how things are going, they get frustrated. They’re wondering why their team “doesn’t get it.”
This frustration leads to a desire for control. Leaders like me will take back the work they were tasked with to make sure it was basically “right”.
But there is a problem. The leader may feel happy to have regained control, but now they are upset that they are working that they have hired someone else. In turn, they react. They become aggressive or passive-aggressive with their team.
The cycle is frustration, control and reaction. It goes around and around, until a leader hits a brick wall of humility, as I did. I realized that if I wanted to expand the scope of my business and get the freedom I wanted as an entrepreneur I needed to understand why I couldn’t trust other people to help me.
The first year of my leadership taught me a valuable lesson. Leaders are not born. They are created through humility and personal growth.
Are you willing to stop your sick cycle of depression and follow a new path?
Courage for honest reflection
In the sales call, I ask, “What do you need to change in your leadership to take you to the next level?”
The answers are wonderful. Leaders say they have to step back and lead their team. Others have to deal with childhood wounds.
What is stopping you from getting to the next level?
- What are the common complaints about my or my team’s culture?
- Why do people leave my business?
- Do my team members have stories like micromanagement, passive aggression, resignation or even blaming?
These questions help you identify behavioral patterns that contribute to turnover problems, poor performance, and even client attraction.
Don’t run from this realization, but don’t embarrass yourself. The idea is to purposefully evaluate the problems in your business without objecting to yourself or others.
Guilt does not solve anything. It irritates your frustration and increases the chasm between you and your team. They annoy you for blaming them and you annoy them for not living up to your impossible standards.
If you want to solve your team-building problems for the better and I know you do, leave the blame. Then get ready to roll up your sleeves.
Change in your organization starts with you. In the words of Joko Willink, you must take ownership. As the leader, Buck stops with us. We have a role to play in every problem of our team.
Suppose you blame your team for being entitled. You have a role to play in your team’s entitlement. Now, own the solution. Re-train your core values — or leave people who are not aligned with your culture.
Creating new patterns
Reflecting on personal issues that infiltrate your business – and navigating solutions – is not easy. Such self-reflection takes time and honesty. You don’t have to tell your team all the wounds of your childhood so they get you. That’s not it.
You need to give them enough context so that they understand why you are behaving like you.
Progress may seem slow — like pushing a rock into a mountain. If you haven’t yet, seek the help of a business instructor, a life instructor, a trusted friend or a therapist. I joke that my assistant is my therapist for this exact reason. You will be amazed at how much an assistant is willing to help you through your insecurities and triggers.
Working through my garbage has made me a happier, more patient and more grounded leader. I believe that if you are willing to do the job – and a little weak, it is possible for you.