About This Episode
Time and energy are two of the most precious—and limited—resources we have as entrepreneurs and business owners. The more our businesses grow, the more we need to be able to scale these limited resources, and we do that by bringing in people we can trust and empower to help us buy back our time.
Dan Martell, the guest for this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, a SUCCESS magazine podcast, is passionate about that. He cracks the code on how we can buy back our time so that we are free to chase a better quality of life while successfully building our empire, and that’s why he wrote his book, Buy Back Your Time.
Dan is an award-winning Canadian entrepreneur, investor, best-selling author, and coach to over 1000+ SaaS founders and CEOs. “The mission I’m on is to teach every entrepreneur that as they grow their business, their life gets better,” he shares.
As entrepreneurs, because our time and energy are limited resources, in order to scale, we need to hire people to do some of the work for us so that we can buy back our time.
“I know I am making a big claim: that you can literally build a business, and a life, and the more you grow, you don’t hate your life,” Dan says. “I don’t want people to build a business they grow to hate.”
How can we grow our businesses, lead people better, and build a life that we enjoy?
The Perfect Week
Time and energy are big pieces in Dan’s book, and when building out the perfect week, those two take center stage.
There is a lot of stuff in our lives, whether business or personal, that demands our attention and that needs to get done, but the important thing to remember is this: not all of it needs to be done by you.
It is possible to get a lot of stuff done while only filling out your calendar with things that (1) drive you toward your goals, (2) add value to your life, and (3) you can profit from.
The idea of the “perfect week” is to design a template, flow, or rhythm based on energy stacking—what types of work are done when that works best for you energetically? You want to focus on things that energize you so that you can be more productive—and transfer the things that sap your energy to someone who is more fit for the task.
This allows you to stay committed to your goals and helps you honor your calendar without hating your to-do list.
In order to build your “perfect week,” you need to do some introspecting.
Step 1: Do an honest audit of your calendar. Make a list of all the things that need to get done and decide which of these things are energizing you and which ones suck the life out of you, so to speak.
Among the things that drain your energy, indicate whether it is going to be expensive or inexpensive to hire somebody else to do them. You can rate it by assigning $ to $$$$ for least expensive to most expensive based on your financial capability.
The tasks that fall within the $ range are on your hit list—"and your only hit list,” Dan tells us—for whom to hire.
Step 2: Once you’ve decided who to hire and bring those people in, you can transfer those tasks to them.
A perfect example would be hiring an executive assistant. An executive assistant manages two things: your inbox and your calendar.
Emails can be draining mentally, emotionally, and energetically. It is a public bid for people who request or demand some of your time, and the decision-making process and the act of scheduling things can be brutal for a lot of us. Transferring that task to an executive assistant takes that burden off your plate—they take care of routing information, coordination, clarification, and scheduling for you, freeing up time and energy for you to focus on other things that drive your goals.
Step 3: Since you’ve freed up time and energy for yourself by hiring someone, the last step is to fill that time with higher-leverage things that you, and only you, can do. It can be focusing on creating new things you can monetize to increase your resources, using that time to develop new skills and focus on your growth and personal development, or doing stuff that adds value to your life, such as spending more time with your family.
The more your business grows and the more resources you have, the better you can hire more people to help you scale, maybe even choose to hire talents that are more expensive to bring in. But of course, when you are starting out, you will have to start small.
The people factor
If you are not doing one-on-ones with the team you hired, you are missing out on a big opportunity. Not only are they a great avenue to stay accountable and updated with their reports, but you can also use these meetings to coach and mentor them individually, as well as ask for and give feedback.
Whenever you bring people into the equation, their problems will arise. “The reason there are people's problems is that there is a lack of trust, and a lack of trust comes back from a lack of understanding and alignment,” Dan says.
Let’s take a deeper look at both feedback and coaching and how they help you become better leaders and get more of your time back.
The F-Word: Feedback
You need to create a frequent, consistent, and constructive feedback loop to make sure you bridge misunderstandings before they escalate and keep your people in alignment.
“Somebody’s going to underperform, and it’s going to frustrate you, and they don’t even know it,” Dan tells us. “Or you are not going to show up in a way that they need, and you don’t know it,” he adds.
One way to achieve this is through what Dan calls the clearing method.
During your one-on-ones, it is your job as a leader to take the lead in asking for feedback. How can you show up better for your team and make sure that they feel supported and led in their roles?
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that most people feel scared to give feedback—especially negative ones—to the people they report to. There’s the fear of offending you, their boss, that might result in them losing their jobs, or making their workplace a terrible place to be in.
As the one in the position of power, when you ask for feedback, it should come with reassurance that it isn’t something that will be taken personally, and encourage them by being grateful for their input.
It is also our job to shut up and listen intently, without bias, judgment, or feeling defensive.
Once they have given you feedback, thank them, and proceed to the next step, which is crucial: clarifying what was said by repeating it. Ask them whether you understood their feedback correctly, and give them an opportunity to correct you if you got it wrong.
This is important because (1) it clears up misunderstandings on either end and more importantly, (2) you make them feel heard.
“In repeating what was said, you have taken care of 90% of the problem—sometimes, you don’t even have to resolve anything. You just have to make them feel heard,” Dan says.
Our people need only three things from us: to feel heard, seen, and appreciated.
But you also have to make sure that they have been heard correctly. Because sometimes, when receiving negative feedback from others, we fixate on something else that they said when their concern is somewhere entirely different in that statement. Clarifying things in a safe and non-combative environment ensures there are no hard feelings caused by misunderstandings and that you are getting the right context.
Whether you agree with their feedback or not, what they said is valid. Accept that, within the context, that was how they felt and how they understood it.
If you agree that you did something wrong, apologize. Admit that what you did was inappropriate. Provide context on what your real intent was and acknowledge where the miscommunication might have originated.
If you don’t agree, thank them for sharing their side and, within the context provided, share your perspective and the principles behind why you handled the situation that way.
Then make a commitment to how you can do things better. It is important to be specific and clear with the resolution and agreement. Take the initiative to find ways you can hold each other accountable to avoid the same problems from arising moving forward.
The same is true when you give your people feedback.
Dan shares a good piece of advice for any employer: Keep a file and write down your feedback for everyone who reports directly to you.
“I have a file with all of my direct reporters’ names, and every time I see anything, I write it down. Because I also realized, I’m not going to criticize in real-time. It’s actually a very bad habit to do [that],” he shares.
Additionally, Dan advises using the action or behavior from the circumstance or situation when providing feedback, "then chunk it up to the principle."
“I believe that we build the people, and the people build the business,” Dan says.
It is crucial to have a feedback structure in place for building and developing people. “I’ve seen great people—great CEOs, great team members—in conflict because nobody knows how to have that feedback conversation,” he shares.
As CEOs, business owners, and employers, we often feel frustrated because it feels like we are spending too much time running around putting out fires instead of focusing on fire prevention. A way to avoid feeling like we have to make all the decisions is by pushing down the decision-making to those on the front lines.
One of the coaching frameworks Dan teaches is the 1-3-1 rule. It works both as a culture and a tool, and it is powerful as both.
The 1-3-1 rule is simple:
- What’s the one (1) specific problem that you are challenged with
- What are the three (3) viable options that you’ve considered
- And what is the one (1) recommendation that you’re making
“Here’s why that is powerful as a culture and a tool: It allows me to use that to ask somebody to think through their problems before they bring them to me,” Dan says.
You hire people because you believe in their talent and potential. It is up to you to develop those talents and potential by holding them accountable for doing the jobs you hired them to do, challenging them to think about the problem and be creative in coming up with viable solutions, and training them to consider all the options and build a strong argument for their recommended solution.
This also instills a sense of ownership in their role.
By building a team of people who are not dependent on you to solve problems and make all the decisions, you open up bottlenecks that most leaders face in their organizations.
Moreover, even if you own the business, you don’t always have all the right answers. The people you have on the front lines are better positioned to come up with solutions because they are the ones with the most information about the situation.
“The bigger your team gets, the bigger it can solve problems on their own,” Dan says.
Your role as a leader
If you are a CEO or business owner, there are only three things you should focus on as your team grows: vision, people, and money.
Your role is not to know everything about your business or make all the decisions, it is:
- to provide a clear, articulated, and documented vision that everybody in the team understands and aligns with.
- Create a process for attracting, developing, and retaining your talents.
- Ensure a structure is in place for everything money-related to your business (monitor profitability, cash flow, conversion cycle, return on equity, etc.) and monitor it frequently.
“What I always try to remind leaders is this: How you show up for your team is teaching them how they are going to show up for their team,” Dan says.
If your goal is similar to Dan's—to build an organization that brings value to customers as promised in a manner that scales, to create a bigger impact without sacrificing your quality of life—then you have to be willing to let go of control. And it takes trusting the people you hire.
“As you scale, you will just not be able to know everything that’s going on in your company all the time. Nor do you need to, and nor does it make sense for you to. You need to change the way you lead people,” Dan tells us.
Follow Dan Martell
Grab a copy of his book, Buy Back Your Time, to learn more about how to create your perfect week, grow your business through transformational leadership, and live a life you enjoy. You can also check out some bonus items and resources on the website, BuyBackYourTime.com.
DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.