Successful Entrepreneurs Shouldn’t Try To Do Everything

Photo by Rosie yang on Unsplash

When famed U.S. basketball coach John Wooden was coaching at UCLA, he said to the bottom five players on his team, “You don’t get to play — you are practice partners.”

Instead, Wooden let the top seven play most often while he was a coach during the 1960s and 1970s.

This non-egalitarian system is tough, especially for those who didn’t get to play, but Wooden’s team improved faster and won far more games than their competitors.

During his career, Wooden coached UCLA to win ten basketball championships.

One of America’s greatest-ever basketball coaches understood successful leaders don’t play to their egos.

Bench Yourself

A non-egalitarian approach applies outside of the basketball court too.

For example, a patient doesn’t pick a brain surgeon for their child by drawing straws. You don’t ask a pilot to fly you from Puerto Rico to Cancun because he seems like a nice guy. And as an entrepreneur, you’re the John Wooden of your company. So decide who gets to play and who sits on the bench.

In some cases, you might belong on the bench.

Many entrepreneurs struggle with benching themselves. Knowing their business intimately, they reckon they can complete the task or project faster than a colleague or contractor.

Perhaps this was practical for a scrappy founder, but is this way of working sensible today? The cost of time spent on one low-value activity to the business by an entrepreneur is too great.

Ryan Gallagher is the founder and CEO of call-tracking service provider iovox, a company that employs 32 people and operates around the world.

“Ego gets in the way,” said Gallagher, who originally trained as an engineer.

“[If] you’re like, ‘I’m the best at everything’ then you need to just go home because if you’re the best at everything then you shouldn’t hire anybody.”

Similarly, managers within larger companies should consider who on their team is best-suited for focusing on a particular task or project rather than giving it to the employee who speaks loudest.

“It’s not necessarily what I’m the best at,” said Gallagher. “It’s more about who in this company is best at dealing with this task rather than what I’m specifically best at.”

Coach Your Team

A good team coach, like Wooden, helps his or her team focus on the prize. He or she is less concerned with the individual’s performance and more with what’s right for the team.

A successful manager should embrace the same mindset. Start by building a team based on who’s right for the role and the company rather than trying to be equal or fair.

Pick people for key projects based on their skills. Focus on helping them thrive within your business, and you can surf the crest of their wave.

Gallagher has spent his career managing teams in larger companies that succeed, and he said:

“I’ve hired people who are far smarter than I am at many different things, and I’ll spend time with them trying to figure out what’s going on and to understand that I have zero ego in that.”

Play To Your Company’s Strengths

Don’t let your ego get in the way of what’s right for your business or career. You might hold on to old ways of working because they’re easy and what you know.

Sometimes, you’ve got to do the hard thing. You might need to learn a new skill, like effective delegation. You could have to embrace rather than defend negative feedback from a boss or colleague or talk to an unhappy customer.

Or you might have to increase time you spend focused on one project rather than switching from task to task every thirty minutes.

Even if you’re not in the business of winning basketball championships like John Wooden, your company must field the best team possible to succeed in the marketplace.

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