Remedies For Checking Out, Part II

By Chuck Violand

September 25, 2017

As mentioned in Part I of this series, checking out doesn’t usually announce itself when it arrives. More often than not, it creeps up almost imperceptibly until we find ourselves being interested in almost anything other than our businesses.

Don’t confuse checking out with normal distractions experienced throughout the workday. Checking out is usually accompanied by a loss of motivation or even a disinterest in the current business. The condition is sometimes the result of how our role within the company changes as our business grows.

Am I confused about my role? It’s not uncommon for CEOs to wonder what it is we’re supposed to be doing as our companies grow. It’s a condition I’ve written about in the past and refer to as the Entrepreneurial Paradox™ (Monday Morning Notes, June 24, 2013; July 8, 2013). In other words, our success works against us. We’ve grown our businesses to a size where we’re doing work we don’t enjoy doing.

It’s important to recognize that the tasks we perform daily will change as our companies grow. No longer will we be managing projects, making sales calls, interacting with customers, or handling money. Our “job” as CEO is to chart the course for our company; to build the team that will take us to that destination; and to track our company’s performance along the way to ensure we are headed in the right direction, making course corrections as needed. Frequently, this is the boring stuff that has a hard time exciting an entrepreneur or even holding our attention. But it’s the most important. A ship and crew is nothing without a strong captain at the helm.

Being confused or uninspired about the work we’re supposed to be doing can cause us to become frustrated and burned out. In extreme cases, we check out of our businesses altogether.

Checking out can happen at any stage of growth or at any age of the owner. While it’s important to stay effective in our role as CEO, this doesn’t mean we can’t continue performing some of the work we enjoy. Doing so is a good thing, as it helps to keep us engaged in our companies.

If it’s the science or technology part of business that we like, look for ways to stay involved in that area without interfering with or undermining the people tasked with those jobs. If we find fulfillment in developing people in our organization, find ways to stay involved, perhaps from a higher level and in a supporting role. Or, look outside the company for a younger business owner we can mentor. Doing so might be as beneficial for us as it is for them, as it could reignite the spark we felt in the early years of business.

I’m convinced that few entrepreneurs start their companies fully understanding the kinds of work we’ll be performing as our businesses grow. It’s only after growth sets in that we realize we’re responsible for work that might not inspire us. Recognizing it’s the job that’s causing a lack of inspiration and not the business itself might help to remedy it.

In Part III, I’ll conclude this series with a few additional causes of Checking Out and how you can prevent them.