Entrepreneurial Burnout & The Need for Delegation with Layci Nelson - Episode 50 – Business Bites

Entrepreneurial Burnout & The Need for Delegation with Layci Nelson

Episode 50 on the Business Bites Podcast

The Gist Of This Episode: Entrepreneurs suffer from burnout without realizing it – and by the time they do, it is really hard to come back from it. Join Layci Nelson and Rachel Brenke as they discuss how to identify burnout, fix it and delegate properly.

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Rachel: Hey guys, welcome to today’s episode of the Business Bites podcast. I am your host Rachel Brenke. I am joined by my friend and fellow entrepreneur Layci Nelson.

Layci, I’m excited to have you!

Layci: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Rachel: So Layci is probably one of the most … entrepreneurs that I respect the most. I’m stumbling over my words because I absolutely love all that she’s done. She owns Nelson Management Strategies. She works with managers and turns them into leaders, helps them grow their businesses through investing in their teams, which is why if any of you guys have listened to my other episodes, I really look to Layci and respect her because management is one of my weaknesses. It’s one of the things that I have been working on.

She not only has the company of Nelson Management Strategies, but she also has co-founded a conference that I spoke at last year, Iron + Mortar. It is a Pacific Northwest affiliate summit where industry leaders come together with micro gym owners and they basically discover their superpowers and strategize ways to help people find and thrive through their fitness journeys.

Layci and I are very similar in that we’re both athletic. We both believe that competition makes us faster, better, and also that collaboration is a key aspect to that. She’s also a mom.

Sorry to cut you off, go ahead.

Layci: No.

Rachel: I just love Layci. I just love your entire background. She’s a mom of two young boys. She has an extremely patient husband, which as entrepreneurs, I think we need to have that. And she’s just an overall amazing woman.

So Layci, thank you for taking time in your extremely busy schedule to talk to us.

Layci: Such the opening. Thank you. I’m just really excited to share with you guys today about management. And you’re not alone. Most people who are entrepreneurial, management actually isn’t their strength. It’s something that is a necessary evil to get the job done, in a lot of the framing that people put in their minds. So I love to help reframe it and help you see it as a tool to actually push your business forward.

Rachel: That’s good because it’s one of those things that I know I have to do in order to scale and grow. I’m just not thrilled with it because I don’t excel at it.

So I think we’re going to focus the discussion today around delegation. And when we talked about this before getting on here, I went right to this idea of burnout, because for me that’s what prompted delegation in the beginning. I have the classic entrepreneurial mindset of, I need to do everything, I need to touch everything in order to make it happen. That stunted my trajectory in the very beginning and it caused burnout.

So when you’re working with these business owners, what are some of the symptoms of burnout? Because I know for me, it may not always be readily apparent, especially if you’re a newer entrepreneur, you kind of just feel that being tired and overworked is synonymous with entrepreneurship.

Layci: Right, right, no that’s really common. And actually a lot of people have the experience where they don’t recognize that it’s happening, and they just keep pushing until they’ve hit the wall. They wake up one day, and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so burnt out.” And it feels like, where did this come from? But there’s actually some really classic symptoms of burnout that you can look for in yourself to go, “Am I headed in that direction?”

First of all, just to define burnout. What burnout is, is living in a state of chronic stress and that is not healthy for us. It keeps our cortisol levels high, it makes us susceptible to illness. Some ways that we can check ourselves with, “Have I crossed that line? Am I headed towards burnout?” Is if we’re in a state of physical and emotional exhaustion pretty much all the time. Do we have a short temper? Are we physically just tired and dragging? Are we getting sick all the time? Cynicism and detachment, so stuff that once gave you joy or excited you, now it’s like, meh. You’re feeling meh about a lot of things. And third, is feelings of ineffectiveness and a lack of accomplishment.

So, just feeling like there’s hopelessness. You have an increased irritability. You get caught in that cycle of feeling frustrated with yourself because you’re just not performing up to your own standard, and it just keeps that cycle going. And all of those feeling escalate until you wake up and go, “Gosh, I am burnt out.” But there were those warning flags along the way.

Rachel: I feel like with us listing these symptoms, is now when we cue the commercial to plug the medicine and we give all the disclaimers. But it’s true. I’m glad that you gave that list because then I want you guys to go back through and head over to the show notes. It’ll be at rachelbrenke.com/epi50, so this is episode 50. And you guys can run through that and I recommend you to keep this list. Don’t just do it now and think, “Oh, you know, I’m not burnt out. I don’t have to worry about that. I guess I’m good to go.”

Because I feel that business truly ebbs and flows and as you progress in your entrepreneurial journey, more opportunities present themselves, which for me, as someone who loves to grab opportunities and I’m multi-passionate about things, it’s really easy for me to fall into burnout. And I have to check myself to not allow myself to get there.

Layci: And I’m really glad that you noted that it’s not something that you just overcome once and then you’ve mastered, “Oh I’m not gonna be burnt out anymore, I figured out the formula.” Because unfortunately that’s not how it works. The way that we’re wired and entrepreneurial people are wired, we’re go-getters, we’re type As. Let’s do this. We run on 110 all the time and it’s something that we have to learn to manage in ourselves. It definitely isn’t something that you just figure out one time and then you’ve got it. You need to be checking in with yourself all the time to recognize, “Am I headed there again?”.

But there are things you can do.

Rachel: And so what would be the first step to fixing this? Obviously recognizing it. We gave them the symptoms, but tying this into the management and delegation and growth of business, what would you recommend to be the first step to help fix the burnout?

Layci: Great question. It’s not very sexy or exciting but the very first step is: check the basics on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Are we sleeping enough? Are we eating healthily? Are we drinking?

Rachel: We get to sleep as entrepreneurs?

Layci: Are we drinking more water than alcohol?

Rachel: And just because vodka is clear doesn’t mean that it’s the same.

Layci: Right, exactly. Those are the first super basic checks. And oftentimes when I get really real with managers I’m working with, with executives, they tell me no, they’re not doing those things. So let’s look at the basics first, back to basics.

But beyond that, once you’ve got past that, “Okay I’m starting to tick those off.” You need to take an inventory of what your stressors are. So what are the things that are really pushing your buttons or making you feel like you’re going over the edge. The number one thing that I think people need to do first is let go of the fear that by backing off or handing something off, that you’re going to forever lose that drive that makes you, you.

I think we feel like, “Oh my gosh, if I don’t keep pushing like this then I’m not going to be driven. Or I’m gonna lose my edge.” And actually it’s counterintuitive, it’s not true. You’re going to actually regain your edge by giving yourself some room to breathe and some room to restore. That part of you was born into you, that drive, that creator, that desire to always find that next thing and take it on. That’s not going anywhere but you need to pause it for a minute.

When you think about when you’re training and you get an injury. I sure have trained through injuries I probably shouldn’t have and it set me back in the long run. It’s taking that time to back up and let your injury heal and pause a little bit and assess what do I need to do to rehab this situation? And that’s where we can take a good look at delegation.

Rachel: And so how do you even initiate delegation? Because for me, a lot of time I resist it. And even now, a decade later, the resistance to add on another team member to delegate to or even to offload a task to an existing team member, for me, it’s more tiring to think about doing that. So I just don’t do it because then I’m thinking, I gotta train them and I’ve gotta get myself organized. I’ve gotta do all these things just to get to the delegation portion and that ends up paralyzing many business owners. I don’t think I’m alone in that.

Layci: No, you’re definitely not and I would agree. The first thing that I would say is that I agree with you and that it is work to delegate, but it’s work that you load up front and it pays off huge dividends in the end. So when you just keep slapping Band-Aids on your situation and limping along, you’re going to limp along versus when you actually take the time to do it right. It may be time … I’ll be honest, it will take time up front to get that person set up to carry out the task appropriately and to your standard. But in the long run it’s going to save you so much time and headache that it’s definitely worth it.

And another thing that I really like to encourage managers and executives to think about is the whole concept of, oh we gotta take our weaknesses and work on them and turn them into strengths. I personally think that’s a lot of garbage. I don’t really agree with that.

Rachel: I agree with you. I agree with you.

Layci: I think what we need to do is, you need to find a task that you’re excited to get off your plate, that when you think about, “I hate doing payroll” or “Really it just sucks up so much of my time to do my books every month.” Those are things that you can outsource to cut to companies if you don’t have it in-house. You can outsource that, you can find an organization that loves doing that work and will do it probably better than you can once you get them set with the information they need.

It really can feel freeing when you start framing it as, it’s something I’m not good at and why would I spend hours of time I could be generating income or making connections or working in my strengths, to work in my weaknesses. For example, I paid someone to build a website for me. It was an investment and it was so worth it because it would have taken me an entire year to do what this woman did in five weeks.

Rachel: I love it. I always try to tell myself or ask myself rather, do I have to be the one pressing these buttons? And especially if it’s something that I’m not that good at, I try to get it off my plate. I have to force myself sometimes, but I still do believe that the managers and executives in a business need to still at least touch every task.

So Layci and I aren’t saying just look at something you need to do and never touch it. You still need to be able to know what is involved so you appreciate and understand what that individual that’s gonna fill that role for you, what they’re gonna go through. You need to understand it enough to set expectations. This is more of in-house type stuff, maybe not so much if you’re hiring professional services, CPAs, etc. But for me, social media managers, virtual assistants, I mean it can run the gamut of different positions that you guys may have but I still think that we need, at least our fingers need, to touch all tasks just to see it and then make a plan from there.

Layci: Absolutely and you’re gonna know, in-house when you know what you’re delegating, like social media. You know what you want. You know what that end product should look like and should feel like. And what can be hard is letting go of that because you have to have enough skill to effectively communicate that to the person you’re handing if off to. And so often we hold all the pieces, we have the picture to what this jigsaw puzzle is supposed to look like and we’re giving them three pieces and saying, “Good luck. Figure it out.” We really need to get better at communicating, what does the back of that puzzle box look like and how do these pieces fit into it?

And also communicating really basic things that we sometimes take for granted, that others don’t know. We need to give them the boundaries they’re working in. We need to say, “Here’s your budget for this project. Here’s the tools that I think you’re going to need. What tools do you think you’re going to need to be able to accomplish this? This is what I think success will look like. How are you going to know if you’re successful? I’m going to check in with you at xyz touchpoints on this project to see where it’s at and we’re going to talk about how your progress is going.”

And you’re going to be touching the project along the way, you’re just not going to be the one executing every single step to make sure it gets where it needs to go. But you are going to be monitoring the progress through effective management.

Rachel: With this delegation, for me, it’s even more than just offloading and freeing up my time. It’s also creating a company culture. I don’t like to say corporate because I don’t feel like I’m in corporate business, I guess, but a company culture. This identity that my team members have within a unit as well.

I just this morning, so funny we’re having this conversation today because I was doing this with my own employees and we were talking about the tasks they enjoy and then also the task that they’re good at, as opposed to some they may not be as effective at. Often those were correlated. Things they enjoyed, they excelled. Things that they were okay at, they probably did not enjoy as much. For me, sitting down and being able to hear from them, even though I feel like I’ve done a good job having this open door policy. We finally actually said, sit down across the table and tell me what it is. Let’s go one by one. This is a free, open environment. They just spoke freely and now we’ve shifted things around just today alone. Who’s gonna do what task and we’ll report back in 20 or 30 episodes and see how well that went.

Layci: Absolutely, you made such a good point. You need to find the right … The person needs to be in the right seat on the bus. So you gotta find the right person for the right job. You do build culture. When you start trusting your people to operate within their strengths and to excel and to show off and to do something better than you can do it? That is huge for company culture and for building trust in your employees and for them to trust you and to feel like, oh my gosh, this is a place I want to be.

Also, you sit down and talk with your people like you are, you’re going to be learning their goals and their professional aspirations, and where they want to go. Instead of feeling like, gosh I don’t want to ask this person to do that. You need to reframe it into you’re giving them an opportunity to meet their professional goals that they’ve set for themselves and to grow their own portfolio. If you are constantly holding all the cards and not sharing that, you’re not going to keep ambitious people very long because that’s not going to feed them the way they need to be fed to stay around and it’s not good for the company culture. It’s not good for the environment. You’re not going to attract and retain the kind of people that you want working for you.

Rachel: One of the other things that I have found by trying to delegate and hire people, is that I want individuals that are as ambitious and driven as me. But then it hit me one day that I’m not actually going to necessarily always have entrepreneurs to fill those roles like I want them. They won’t necessarily have all those qualities because if they have all those qualities they’d actually be out going and doing their own.

I’ve had people who are in transitionary periods between going from a corporate job. They’d work with me part-time to learn and grow but I knew and helped to cultivate because I was totally cool with getting myself some help in the meantime. Teaching them some things, I get support, and then they were going to move on.

I just have always struggled. It’s hard when I need another entrepreneurial mindset but I have to reel myself in to go, well if I was gonna have another entrepreneur that’s more like a business partner rather than a team member.

Layci: Exactly. I was going to say, you’re looking for a partner and not a team member. If you think you want to pull in another entrepreneur and then try to control those reins, I mean, imagine managing yourself, right? There’s a reason we work for ourselves. There’s a lot of fire there.

It is okay to pull that person in if you both have the understanding that this is temporary, this is part-time. But don’t ever view them as, this is going to be someone who’s going to stick around because they’re not. They’re going to be building their own thing.

Not that you would ever do this but, I actually have run into situations where people have been promised partnerships and then just strung along for years and they give everything they have. Then they burn out and they’re never fully brought on as partners and they’re made promises, or they at least perceive they were made a promise and it wasn’t kept. So don’t ever do that. Don’t make commitments you’re not going to keep. Be very upfront with people to what the possibilities are for them in the organization, but don’t make a commitment you’re not willing to stick with, just to try to keep them around.

Rachel: That’s a good point. I feel like this is a conversation that needs to be had in the very beginning but it’s going to evolve as the employ- … I say employment but it could be independent contractor, temporary people. It’s going to evolve the amount of time, the more in-depth work that they do for you, which brings me to my next question.

And this, you obviously probably already know where this came from, it’s on the idea of performance reviews or maintaining hires and giving this feedback. I went to this thinking what you just said. I could prompt people along, talk them, incentivize them from the initial hire but also in these routine review or sit down-type meetings. But I know that you’re not a fan of performance reviews in the traditional sense.

Layci: I’m not actually. I think, most of the time, performance evaluations are just something that people think they’re supposed to be doing. So they pull something off of Google and they kind of doctor it a little bit for themselves. They don’t really think through it and then it’s just this arbitrary nerve wracking process on both ends, of getting a number that goes nowhere and sits in a drawer all year.

And those are garbage. Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste their time. But there is a way to do it right. Evaluations are a great tool when they’re actually used well and they’re thoughtful and they’re intentional. All reevaluations should start, especially for small businesses, should start with a discussion where you’re just having a give and take conversation. It’s guided, you’ve got some questions in front of you that you want to get your answers to. But you’re asking them things like …

First, you open the door with letting them brag about, what accomplishments are you most proud of in this last evaluation period? What areas do you want to improve in? And don’t tie it to having them look at their form, just generally speak. What are you feeling good about? Where do you want to improve? And then you start asking them to give you feedback. And this isn’t always fun because if you have the kind of relationship you need with your employees, sometimes they’re going to tell you things that you don’t want to hear and they hurt a little bit but they make you better.

When you ask them things like, what have I done to help you do your job better? And what have I done to hinder your job performance? Do you have the resources and tools that you need to perform your job? And then, some scarier questions that you can ask when you’re part of a small business, any business really but, how would you describe our culture here and how could you be part of maintaining or improving it? And then the scary question, how could I? They’re going to tell you. If there’s hypocrisy in your walk, you’re going to hear about it when you ask that question, if you have an environment they feel safe to talk to you in.

And then you can also start asking them, how do you see yourself contributing to this company in the future? So these are times to hear what their aspirations are, where do they want to reach for. And if you’re having this conversation on an annual basis … There’s more questions, but if you’re having a conversation like this on an annual basis, you’re going to get some really good insight to where your people are at. And you’re going to be able to have a good sense of what tasks should you delegate to them.

And that’s before you even get into the numbers portion, which you should do, but that discussion piece is just as important and often it’s not done at all, or very minimally. It’s like two questions and we’re done because this is uncomfortable and we all want to get out of here.

Rachel: So would you recommend them doing it more than once a year? I kind of feel like we do this a little informally in our team meetings. We’ll drop some of these questions so it’s not like a full-on sit down, which we did today, but I feel like we more frequently do that in … because we want our team members to feel part of the team. We use that language because we want a team environment, not, I’m the boss, which we know, let’s be real. The executive assistants are the boss and I tell Pam that all the time.

But I don’t want to be, I’m the boss lady and you’re the employee. While that may be the legal classification, I definitely want to cultivate the more team base.

I guess back to my question because I’m rambling as usual. How often do you think we should do these evaluations?

Layci: That’s a good question. I think that you should do a formal evaluation with ratings, which you can evaluate core values and how they’re doing with carrying out core values and how they’re doing with actual task performance, and those are typed-in numbers. You should be doing that with the conversation once a year, at least. Maybe twice. It depends on your people.

Now, you should be studying goals quarterly. I feel that quarterly, individualized, not company rah-rah goals. Those are important too. But individual performance goals on a quarterly basis, where no more than three and maybe four if you do a stretch goal, where they’re really working hard towards something specific that they want to develop or improve their skillset or maybe improve their communication in-house. Something that you can measure and come back in a quarter and, how are doing?, let’s check in on this.

And it doesn’t have to be the big, long discussion again. It can be, we’re going have a goal check-in. You do need to prepare for it because you’re going to need to ask them, you’re going to need to look and see how they’re doing and pull up that measurement and ask them to be prepared to tell you how they think they’re doing on it. So it does take a little prep but it could be a fifteen, ten minute conversation in your office. And then great, let’s set the next goals, or continue working because you haven’t quite hit this one yet.

Rachel: I love the fact that you bring up the quarterly stuff because I’m probably a broken record. I work on quarterly so it’s always my recommendations in the podcast. It’s like, you need a quarterly plan and then you need to work on this quarterly. Just for me because if I don’t set hard dates, all of a sudden it’s going to be a year and I’m going, oh, I haven’t done anything.

Layci: Also, our businesses are living, breathing creatures, right? We might set something that makes complete sense at the beginning of the year but then six months down the road you’re like, wow, we had something unforeseen come up or an opportunity and we need to shift gears a little bit here. But you have never backed up to reset people’s goals to align with where you’re going.

So then you get to the end of the year and you pull out those reviews and you’re like, well, these aren’t even really valid anyway. And that’s where it can just go off the rails and you don’t use them anymore. And then nobody has goals anymore.

Rachel: So Layci, do you, I know the answer, but do you provide coaching specifically on this? To people that need a little bit more guidance than what we’ve talked about today?

Layci: Yes. Executive coaching is one of the services I offer and I absolutely love it. I love working with entrepreneurs. I love helping them identify where they want to go, where they’re falling down, what their strengths are, and then, oftentimes I hear it starts with, gosh I’ve got this employee that’s really causing a problem. And so we really dig to, okay, where’s it going from? And then systematically, what’s going on in your organization that you got to this place? And we’re going to Band-Aid it for a minute but we’re also going to go in for surgery and we’re going to fix what is falling apart and the things that you can control to prevent this in the future.

Rachel: My recommendation would be more of a preventive … I get what you’re saying because I’m on the end of that from the legal side, people don’t really come until they have an issue and then we’re in full-on OR. I would prefer, if you guys that are listening, would sit down, take the things that we talked about here. I’m going to put all the show notes, again, at rachelbrenke.com/epi50 and that way you guys can go through, run through the items. But, to make sure you really do set a plan, maybe reach out to Layci, get in with her and have her evaluate what’s going on so that you can make a plan before hiring somebody.

I’ve got a couple other episodes that we talk about independent contractor, employee in contracts, but I don’t want you guys to jump in headfirst, get so excited about delegation because we convinced you and then, not only do you have legal issues, but then you lost a lot of time, money, and energy. That’s been one of my biggest mistakes in management is that, I’ve not appropriately hired, I’ve not appropriately managed, and I just didn’t want fire people and I wasted a lot of money. The relationship soured in the end because I wouldn’t just buck up and do what needed to be done for the business either.

Layci: 99% of the time, people that need to be let go are held onto for so much longer and it just makes it worse for everybody. I hope it doesn’t come to this but I also coach people through firing, which is awful when you have to do it, but it is something that needs to be done right, for a lot of reasons, which from your legal side I’m sure you know that well.

Rachel: Yes, well awesome. Thank you Layci. I so appreciate it. Do you want to let them know where they can find you?

Layci: You can find me at nelsonmanagementstrategies.com. You can also find me on Facebook at Nelson Management Strategies and on Instagram at layci_nelson.

Rachel: Awesome. Well thank you Layci. We appreciate it.

Guys, please go look at the show notes. Listen to the episode again, a lot of great information here, stuff that I wish I had known. In fact, I’m actually going to re-listen to it later, take a couple notes because my team members deserve the best manager and so I’m going to continually keep working to be better and I hope the same for you guys.

Thanks for listening.

Featured Guest & Resources

Layci Nelson owns Nelson Management Strategies where managers turn into leaders and growing businesses level-up through investing in their teams in ways that count. She is also a co-founder of Iron + Mortar: the PNW Affiliate Summit, where industry leaders come together with micro-gym owners who are discovering their super-powers, and strategize ways to help even more people find, and thrive in their fitness journeys. Why? Because competition makes us faster, but collaboration makes us better.  She also enjoys keeping up with her two young boys, her astoundingly patient husband, and their little dog too.  If she is not at the gym, look for this crew to be tearing up a dance floor, searching for the next warm beach, biking the back roads or engrossed in a sci-fi movie marathon.

View Layci’s resources here:

Nelson Management Strategies
Website
Facebook
Instagram

About the author

Rachel Brenke is a lawyer, author and business consultant. She is currently helping professionals all over the world initiate, strategize and implement strategic business and marketing plans through various mediums of consulting resources and legal direction.

Hi, I’m Rachel Brenke

Rachel Brenke

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