Abdicating Is a Founder’s Kryptonite

abdicating bookkeeping business cfo cmo feminine founder graphic design growth hiring interaction kryptonite leadership leading management micromanagement overwhelm production relationship responsibility senior leaders strategy tactics talent vp vulnerability Mar 25, 2024


Welcome back to Leadership is Feminine! In this engaging episode, Kris Plachy sheds light on a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of running a business: the pitfalls of abdicating responsibilities as a founder. With candor and insight, Kris addresses the vulnerability that arises from handing over crucial aspects of the business and not being actively involved in their management.

Kris highlights the tendency to delegate tasks to others and then disengage, whether it's bookkeeping, graphic design, or other operational functions. She emphasizes the vital role of the founder in maintaining strategic involvement and a clear line of sight into all areas of the business, even when delegating to experts. Kris delves into the potential consequences of complete abdication, such as financial mismanagement, loss of control, and the challenge of replacing key team members who hold all the knowledge.

The episode explores the common tendencies of female founders, especially those from a bootstrapped background, to defer to or feel intimidated by senior hires' expertise. Kris stresses the importance of maintaining an authoritative presence and clear expectations for these roles, ensuring that the founder remains in control and actively engaged. She also addresses the fears and challenges that may prompt founders to shy away from micromanagement and inadvertently slide into complete abdication.

Kris's powerful message resonates as she urges founders to embrace a leadership role, not by doing everything themselves, but by effectively leading and holding all team members accountable to the business's core vision and results. The episode serves as a wake-up call for founders to recognize and rectify instances of abdication that may be leaving their business vulnerable.

"You're still in charge. And if you're in charge, you've got to show up. You have to be present in that relationship."

Key Takeaways From This Episode

  1. Defining Abdication Within Your Business: Common areas and roles, recognizing what it looks like, and the consequences it has

  2. Hiring Senior Leaders and Delegating Responsibility: Ensuring understanding of the strategic vision and the results expected

  3. Balancing autonomy: The need for structure and accountability in senior roles

  4. Not Abdicating Doesn’t Have to Mean Micromanaging: Having a plan and not simply abdicating responsibilities

  5. Leading and Managing as a Founder/CEO: Inviting broader and bigger results through leadership

  6. Maintaining presence: Being present in the relationship without needing to know how to do the job


Well, hello and welcome. Thank you so much for joining Leadership is Feminine podcast today. I'm super excited to talk to you about something I think is really important. I don't know that we talk about this very much. And so I hope that what this conversation does is kind of spur an awareness for you that will be useful in the way that you are conducting your business and primarily in the way that you are interacting with certain people and parts of your business.

So I called this podcast Abdicating Is A Founder's Kryptonite, because too many of us are abdicating parts of our business to people that we think know what they're doing, and maybe we think, know what they're doing better than we do.

So this kind of starts, it's like small and obvious and honestly, very justifiably, I will, because I've been right here. So I know, I know the things I know. Of what I speak, I have been. And I still might be. In some ways this was interesting topic for me to poke around on.

But the other day I was getting ready and I always get these ideas that come in my head and I wrote down, wherever you're abdicating in your business, you are the most vulnerable. After I wrote that, I started to really, like, think about it. Like, what do I mean by that? So wherever I'm abdicating, I am the most vulnerable. Okay? And what I meant in my brain when I wrote it down is if you're abdicating elements of your business, so you're abdicating your bookkeeping, you're abdicating your graphic design, you're abdicating parts of the production that you have.

And what I mean by abdicating is you have given it to someone else to take care of and you really don't have any relationship with it. It's like out of sight out of mind. And for a lot of us, as our businesses grow, it's the one thing we want more than anything is, "I just want someone to do this," right? Whatever this is, right?

And all of our, this is different. We all have a different relationship with different parts of running a company. So my thing that I can't wait to get rid of could very well be the thing that you just so love doing. So there's no rules here.

Although, I will tell you that in my experience, for most of us when we start to grow, one of the first roles that a lot of us get is a bookkeeper. Because it does become - unless you're the bookkeeper type and you love all the bookkeeping, right - many of us really just don't enjoy that. So we hire a bookkeeper. And for most of us, it's like, "Here, bookkeeper, please be in charge of my money. And please, unless, you know, the sky is falling, I don't really need to know a lot."

And so one of the things I hear regularly from my clients is not just that they're abdicating their money and the management of their money, they're all doing it in arrears. So they're not even looking at their money, but for a month or two months after it's all happened. There's no forecasting, there's no budgeting, there's no anticipating, there's no planning based on what's coming in.

We treat our money like something we just have to store, and then report. But really money is the, right, is the primary vital sign, revenue, of a functioning business. And yet for so many of us, we'd like go eyes closed on it.

So I want you to just take a minute and be honest with yourself. Where have I tricked myself into thinking that I've hired someone to just handle part of my business. But really what I've done is I've abdicated entirely.

Now I'm going to talk to you about what that, what the two, what the difference is between them, but I just want you to sort of do a quick scan. How do we know we're abdicating? We have no line of sight. We have no access. And if we do have access, we don't even know how to get into it, and we don't have any strategic involvement.

So sure, you might have hired a technology person to oversee all of your I. T. But you're not involved. You're not overseeing it. You don't really have any part of the strategic conversations related to it. You hired this person because you don't understand I. T. You hired them and now they're doing it for you. And you feel delighted.

And we go through that until we realize what happens when people like that quit. And you have completely abdicated a core element, a core operation in your business, to someone with no line of sight. And I wish I could tell you it rarely happens. I think it happens way too much, but I don't think it's happening for the reasons that we tell ourselves.

I think the reason that we tell ourselves it's happening is, well, I hired them to be in charge of whatever, like, what am I supposed to do? I'm, I hired them to do it. Yes, you did. You hired them to oversee, implement, execute on, manage, support, right, insert here, whatever the result is that you know you need in the business to deliver the overall results and the vision of the business.

So one of the very common challenges is we do grow and we get to the place where we do need to buy, or to buy, to hire a CFO, a CMO, or a VP, like these higher level people, right? And especially right now, one of the things that so many of my clients are saying right now is, gosh, there's really good people looking for work, right? Like really talented, really experienced people.

And for a lot of female founders who are bootstrapped, right, like maybe didn't even have a like corporate job ever. These people come into your office as the, you know, CMO or the vice president of marketing, or the vice president of finance, or a controller or a IT person or a head of sales, right? All these people. And they're very impressive. Okay. Their salaries are high and their resume has like companies on it that are impressive. Big impressive companies. Yes.

And this is where you, this is where you should have coach. Because what happens is you diminish yourself in this relationship because you think they know better than you. You think they have a better understanding of what to do than you do. You might even defer to them about whatever it is that they're going to be overseeing because you don't feel like you know.

And that's the beginning of a problem because your job as the founder, CEO, principal, president, you know, whatever you're calling yourself is to ensure that the people that you hire are understanding what your strategic vision is for the business. What is this promise that you're delivering? And how does IT support it? How does marketing support it? How does the finance department support it?

Now, what they have to do all day, I don't know, but what I expect them to deliver, I need to know. Do you understand the difference?

But what happens is we hire someone and we're like, "Well, he's got so much experience. He really knows marketing. He's really coming in with so many great ideas." Yes, he is, but do you know what he has to do? He has to deliver a result that you are holding him accountable to. The higher the level, the position, the more tempted you're going to be to back out, to back off.

I just had a client say to me this week, "I don't want to micromanage him." No, if we have a new C-suite or a new VP, new director. You need to be all over that. We don't just give them a ton of autonomy right away. That's buying you a problem. It's buying you dark corners in your company, and that will leave you in a position of feeling, if they quit, completely overwhelmed.

And if you know they're not right, and you need to fire them, you may be less likely to because you have all this fear because they know where all the keys are and you don't know what they've been up to.

So there's a balance when we hire people to do work that is not our jam and we know that in order for the organization to grow, the organization to be supported, the customers to be supported, we have to add this role. Before you ever hire them, you have to be clear about why, what is the key result that this position is here to deliver. So when I make an offer, I'm being incredibly clear. "Hey, I am hiring you, vice president of sales, to achieve this. This is your result. To deliver year over year growth in all of our product lines. That is why this position exists. And here are the three to five ways I'm going to evaluate your results, your performance."

We do not abdicate performance of people who are senior leaders. That doesn't make any sense. Okay. And this micromanagement mindset. It's, it's, we back off of it because we hate it. We don't want to be micromanaged. That's why you started a company, right? So you have anxiety about that. So then what you do is you abdicate and, and this is probably an exaggeration, but maybe not so much for a lot of you listening like, "Hey, so glad you're here. Listen, here's the keys. Here's your login. Here's our system. Joyce is going to show you how to do this, this, and this. And hey, listen, why don't we meet next Monday, see how things are going. I'd love to know what ideas you have. What have you found out? Let's just check in."

You're just so relieved that somebody is there to do this.

And that's not how it goes. If you do that, you're already setting yourself up for so many things. You've abdicated. This person thinks they have more authority than they probably should. This person is making decisions without consulting with you. And they probably shouldn't.

So when we hire people, we have to have structure to that. And that's so much of what I teach with the clients I work with, right? You have to have a plan. You cannot just abdicate. And a lot of my clients lose their mind because I'll tell them, listen, you know, if I were you, that job, is that vital? I would meet with that guy every morning for two weeks, even if it's for 10 minutes.

"What are you working on? What's on the list? Here's our plan for this week for you. What did you get done yesterday? What challenges did you face? What did you feel really good about? What did you learn?" If you can't do that because you feel awkward, uncomfortable, you feel like, they know more than you, so you don't have, like, a right to do that? We gotta talk about it. Because that's abdicating. And it's abdicating out of insecurity, right?

Some people abdicate out of pure dread and disdain, right? Like, please don't make me ever put something in Asana. This is my thing. I, the details just suck me dry, right? So there's that kind of abdicating.

And then there's, "Well, I, he, oh my gosh, he's so, he has, she has so much more. She knows so much more than I do." And we abdicate to them because we think they know better. I want my employees to know more than I do. I'm all in. I would like you to be better, more talented, more knowing, more networked. I want all of it.

Because I win if I hire exceptional people It's my company and I am the CEO. So I will tell you what the results are that I expect, and I will follow up and I will evaluate how you're doing. I will not abdicate that I will keep track of the commitments that you make. I will keep track of the strategy we decide to implement. We will have regular one on ones. In the absence of it, you are absolutely creating vulnerability for yourself and for your business.

And that triggers either complete overwhelm and peril when somebody quits, which can lead to so many other problems, right? Like hiring too quickly to replace them, all the things. And B, it can also lead to your keeping people because you are in so much fear if they quit because you have abdicated and you feel that vulnerability. And I have to believe that every single one of you listening to this, knows what I'm talking about.

And so the way around that is we first just confront it. And we remember that we are hiring talented people to delegate and transfer responsibility to. Sometimes the strategy, if they're a senior leader, sometimes just the tactics, but the result belongs to the business. And frankly, the role belongs to the business, as I've mentioned in previous podcasts.

So we have to always make sure we're keeping that in mind. You're still in charge. And if you're in charge, you've got to show up. You have to be present in that relationship. You don't have to know how to do their job. You have to know how to understand what they are or are not doing and the result that you expect.

It's a different way of thinking because for so many of us bootstrappers, we're just, we just do all of it. We just do everything. And so then we think that we need to be able to do something in order for us to sort of be good at it. You don't, you have to become better at leading, not building spreadsheets. Leading. Asking the questions that pull people forward with you, that invite them to broader, bigger results. That's your job.

You get up in the two, three, four million dollars of a business, like when you're running that large of a business, you have to be willing to lead, not manage. And it's different, but abdicating is not managing and it's not leading. It's hiding and it causes problems.

So, hey, I'm glad that you tune in and I always want to invite you to go to thevisionary.ceo to see what I'm up to. Lots of things are happening over the course of this year and, that will always be your best place.

If you're already on the mailing list, you'll find things out when I put them out. But if you aren't, you should get on there because it's going to be fun. All right. Thanks for tuning in.

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