"Irrelevant" doesn't sound good. But it is -- for you, your agency, and your employees. Stay with me here.
If you're necessary to the agency's success, that means your agency is at risk of failure. Certainly its longevity is at risk. No one is indestructible. We all get sick. We all have emergencies. We all need to take a break sometime. Yes, even you. If your agency can't function as expected when you're not around, that's like building your agency on top of a fault line. You don't know when the big one is coming, but you have no fail-safes in place to protect your agency when it does.
Your agency should be able to succeed without you. It's a testament to your leadership if your agency can pass the vacation test.
If not, you're probably holding on a bit too tightly to tasks and responsibilities you can delegate to other people. That leaves no room for you or your employees to grow.
It's a scary prospect. The common belief is that if you make yourself irrelevant, you make yourself redundant and dismissible. These are limiting thoughts. It's your job as a leader to bring a vision for the future of your agency. To do that, you need to make yourself irrelevant to your agency as it is now.
The Sign of a Sophisticated Agency
Your agency can only function without you if it's operating as a sophisticated organization. That means you have the processes and workflows in place to ensure consistent quality output in a profitable way. Even better, it means you have a team with the skill and professionalism to execute those processes, while also providing the creativity your clients crave.
If you're constantly having to course correct, or having to step in regularly to make tactical decisions or resolve disputes, your agency is still operating in an ad hoc way. That's an agency that hasn't found its footing yet. You're certainly critical to the agency's functioning, just not in a positive way.
Sign of Your Success as a Leader
Your role at the agency has evolved. In the early days you were owner/chief [insert role]. Today, you're still the owner or CEO. You've (hopefully) been handing off all sorts of responsibilities as your agency has grown. But here's the real test: Have you handed off client management and account growth? How about business development within your agency's current sphere of expertise? No? You might want to rethink that and do something.
Successful leaders actively groom select employees to take on more of their most critical tasks. Your agency benefits from having more people adept at these senior management functions, which bodes well for agency's stability and sustainability.
Your agency further benefits by giving your best employees the motivation to stay and grow with it. If top employees don't feel like there's room for advancement, they'll jump to an agency that does.
Remember: Leaders lead other people to new places. Where are you leading your people?
Irrelevancy Frees You to Grow
Your employees aren't the only ones who want and need to grow. Being irrelevant to your agency also means you have the time to explore new challenges and dreams and to stretch yourself in new, uncomfortable, and exciting ways.
Perhaps you want to expand the agency's expertise into an entirely new industry. Or you want explore new partnerships that could result in exponential growth for the agency. Or perhaps your dream when starting the agency was to get to a place of financial security so you could focus on the causes you care about most. Maybe you have another business in you.
You can't explore or launch yourself into anything new if you're consumed by the same duties you've been doing. Whether the new challenge is for the benefit of your agency or yourself, new challenges will arise. You need to have the energy and time to recognize them and take them on.
Don't feel like you'd have the time to take on new challenges as things are now? Try some of these tips to improve your productivity as a leader in your agency.
Letting go of control of your agency isn't easy. It's not just that your instinct is to remain relevant to its workings. Your agency is your "baby." Who could care for it as well as you?
Well, babies grow up and eventually leave the nest. But they need a push from you.
If you've got confidence in what you've created with your team, then you should have the confidence that they'll do fine without you. Your irrelevance should be a source of pride.