“Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly.”
– Julie Andrews
One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face as my husband Bryan and I have created and grown the companies of Miles AG over the past few years is learning my own limitations. That’s groundbreaking, right? But it truly was. Once I realized that my own need to keep control over many aspects of our business was stifling our growth, I was able to let go of those things and watch them explode. I was the lid on our business, and once I took it off we took flight!
That’s an easy thing to say, but it’s not an easy thing to do. It takes discipline for me to lead well, and to let my teams do what they do so well. As I look back on the last nearly six years since we founded Miles AG, I’ve found that I need discipline in my leadership in three particular areas.
Discipline to Delegate
I am not the best person do to most of the things that need to be done in our businesses. I have a unique set of skills that need to stay focused on a very small portion of our activities. I’ve got to stay focused on those, and be disciplined in delegating things to those around me. We’ve assembled a tremendous team of leaders for each of our companies who are incredibly talented. It’s on me as their leader to be disciplined enough to pass things off to them, knowing that they will do far better at accomplishing the task than I would.
That can be especially hard when you’re just starting out in business, as often there isn’t anyone else around to help take those things off your plate. That’s why I’m so grateful Bryan and I started out our businesses with just one 5-hour-a-week employee—Tricia. We were on a shoestring budget, but we knew it would be important to have someone besides the two of us involved in building our businesses. She handled administrative details for us like preparing contracts and schedules, but eventually her role (and our revenue) grew to where we could hire her full-time. She’s now the president of eaHELP, and we love knowing that’s she’s been there since Day One to see how and why we’ve built these organizations.
Discipline to Eliminate
It takes a tremendous amount of courage to admit when part of your business isn’t working. It takes an even greater amount of discipline to stop doing whatever isn’t working. Early on in our business, we were conducting one of our quarterly reviews of our financials and I had to face the hard truth that one of our service lines just wasn’t cutting it in terms of revenue. Worse, it was a service line where I was spending huge amounts of my time and effort and getting very little return. We had to have a hard conversation around the future of that service, and ultimately eliminated it. Once we did, I was able to turn my attention to other aspects of the business that needed my attention and I could see the positive results immediately. The discipline it took to eliminate that service paid immediate returns, but it still wasn’t easy.
Discipline to Rest
I’m very grateful that our businesses have grown to the point that I’m not as essential to the daily operations as I used to be. That means I get to enjoy more times of rest and relaxation with my family. But I still struggle often with the feeling of being unproductive. I’m the kind of person who needs to have a plan to do something on vacation, like finish a book or work on some project. My need for productivity often overrides my need for relaxation, and that gets me in trouble. As I’ve been able to develop the discipline to rest, I’ve been rewarded since the times when I come back from vacation often demand more from me than I expected. Thanks to exercising the discipline to step away and recharge, I’m even more ready to dive into those busier seasons.
Lots of us may chafe under the idea of “discipline,” but much like Julie Andrews, I’ve discovered that exercising discipline in key areas of my life and leadership have freed me up to be even more of the leader and person I want to be. I may not be able to spin around on a mountaintop like Julie, but our appreciation for discipline is definitely the same.
How has discipline freed you up to be more of what you really want to be?