I got to the point that I couldn’t do it all anymore. In the small office we started the business in, I was the salesman, graphic designer, videographer, editor, IT, and the janitor.

As we grew it was easy to let go of the things I didn’t like or where the process was complex enough that it was just easier to hire or outsource.

I started seeing barriers to growth when there wasn’t enough time in the day to do all the work that had to be done. So, I did the thing that many entrepreneurs find hard: Letting go of the work that is urgent for the work that is important.

In my particular case, I created the 60% rule. About every six months, my job would change in focus and work. My goal was to take my current leadership role and develop the process, metrics, and relationships and get them to at least 60% proficiency. Then, I would hand it off (delegate or hire) as quickly as possible to someone who would work on the next 40%.

The problem with that is I had to wear every hat to make this happen. It sounded awesome in theory as I would know how to do every job and then be able to hire and manage the growth. That was dead wrong. It turned out that I held onto job roles and oversight too long and that sixty percent, although low, kept me from trusting my team to take the initiative, grow, and ultimately scale.

Based upon the conversation I have with Acumen Partners, I don’t think this is a limited issue. Every leader struggles with what to hold onto, what to give away, when to give it, when to invest, when to let go.

I was meeting with an Acumen Partner last week and his goal for the year is to become irrelevant.

He is a founder of the business, built the company from scratch, and has managed the company into growth over the last 15 years. About 3 years ago he got serious about becoming irrelevant inside his own company.  Irrelevant. Not pertinent. Peripheral.

Irrelevant that the business does not need him on a daily basis to run. Irrelevant that leadership and strategic meetings happen in his absence. Irrelevant to managing culture, standards, procedures, hiring, and firing.

Irrelevant, but not disconnected.

There is a time and place where total irrelevance makes sense. As leaders, you always need to be pushing towards becoming irrelevant somewhere in your organization. The business won’t grow or thrive without focusing on it, not focusing on you. The more irrelevant you become, the more time you have to work on the important and not urgent which becomes the highest and best use of your time. It’s the strategic thinking that fosters growth and innovation.

Where do you need to become irrelevant?

Dan Cooper
Post by Dan Cooper
February 22, 2019
Dan Cooper co-founded ej4, a video-based online training company, in 2003, and was its CEO until selling in 2012. During his time with ej4, he grew the company from a startup to a nationally-recognized firm, serving clients including Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper Snapple, Honeywell, Monsanto and Syngenta. Channel partners included SAP and Oracle. As of the 2012, ej4 was serving 1,000+ customers, delivering millions of program views, was highly profitable and debt-free. Today, he is the CEO of Acumen, a mastermind community platform built for CEOs and Owners of strong and growing companies. He and his wife, Ali, have three children and attend Cure of Ars church in Leawood, KS. Dan enjoys running, all things soccer — coaching, playing and watching —and burning all types of meat on the backyard barbecue grill.