Middle Class Mindset Keeping You Stuck With the Wrong Support People?

I was talking to a friend today and he said something that brought me to awareness about an issue I’ve been struggling with as I attempt to run multiple businesses and control everything happening in all of them.

He said “We are taught as middle class people that we need to control everything and it keeps us stuck.  We are taught that the true entrepreneur is the one who has his hands in everything and is in control of every piece.”

Then, he went on to say “The people from the upper classes are taught from an early age that you hire people to do things, trust them to get it done and fire them if they don’t.”

Talk about an eye-opener.

First, because I tend not to think in the context of socio-economic class.  And next, because he is right.

To truly leverage the one resource we cannot make more of – time – we have to find the right people and trust them to get their job done.  When they don’t, we have to let go quickly and not settle.

Most of us have not been trained to live this way.  I know I sure wasn’t.  It’s been the most difficult business issue for me, bar none.

Instead, until recently I’ve done the opposite.

Hire someone, micro-manage, make excuses for them when things aren’t done the way I want them to be, convince myself it must be because I didn’t communicate clearly, and then micro-manage some more hoping for a different outcome.

Not a recipe for success.

This applies equally to life as it does to business.

You don’t follow your housekeeper around with a broom to sweep up after the things she misses, do you?

If you had to do that, you would find a new housekeeper, right?

So, why do we do it in our business?

When you find yourself in this pattern, ask yourself …

If I was Richard Branson and I owned a magazine, an airline, and multiple other businesses, how would I manage the people I’ve hired to get things done?

So, talk to me … are you beating yourself up for the shortcomings of the people you hire to support you in life and business?  What do you do when you are disappointed? Are you ready to do something different?


  1. Chris Eh YoungThursday, July 8, 2010 at 2:53 pm 

    Have you read any of Christine Comaford's work? She breaks this down very well.

    It's hard to let go and trust people when the end result affects you and your business directly but it is a necessary course of action. We need to hire people to do the tasks that are of the lowest value to us so we can concentrate on our highest value tasks.

  2. Dave NavarroThursday, July 8, 2010 at 2:58 pm 

    Good point. making the transition between doing and hiring … and it's ain't easy.

    The “If you want a job done right, do it yourself” mindset is so counter-intutively limiting.

    Going to hire my first VA soon, I can feel it … though I won't lie, it makes me very uneasy to trust someone with core support functions.

    On the other hand, I'd rather have an extra zero on the end off my monthly revenues, so it's gotta happen. 🙂

  3. Lisa WellsThursday, July 8, 2010 at 3:33 pm 

    Hi Dave – I'd be more than happy to help you get over your trust issues when it comes time to hire a VA. I'll be gentle.

  4. Lisa WellsThursday, July 8, 2010 at 3:56 pm 

    Hi Alexis, I do think you are right on a lot of points (and I've been through my fair share of housekeepers let me tell ya)

    But I have to represent the other side on this one…

    Many (many!) entreprenuers are great thinkers, leaders, and visionaries but sort of suck when it comes to the managing part of the business. When I was a virtual assistant, I worked with dozens of clients in all the different stages of their business. Some were just starting out and didn't know how to delegate, some were in the growth stage and didn't have time to delegate, and some were so successful they hired someone else to delegate.

    It has to be a two-way street; support professionals aren't mind-readers and, especially without the face to face relationship, it's hard to gauge just exactly what the business owner is thinking/wanting/envisioning/needing/planning/dreaming.

    This is why it's so important to have systems in place, communicated expectations, and an environment where it's ok to speak up. Too many times support professionals are too scared to voice an opinion and trust me, the business owner would LOVE to hear it.

  5. TinaThursday, July 8, 2010 at 4:35 pm 

    love this:

    “The people from the upper classes are taught from an early age that you hire people to do things, trust them to get it done and fire them if they don’t.”

    i totally wasn't raised that way either and i can really see where/how that causes issues in how i work with people. i think sometimes even guilt comes in for me? like I “should” be the one to do something, instead of giving it to my team?

  6. alexisneelyThursday, July 8, 2010 at 7:41 pm 

    Sort of suck? Um, yea. I totally agree. I totally sucked (and to a large degree still do) at the managing part of my business.

    Delegation requires a great deal of clarity, which many entrepreneurs, esp those in growth stage, are seriously lacking farther out than a day or two.

  7. alexisneelyThursday, July 8, 2010 at 7:41 pm 

    Yes, Christine is great. A mentor and friend. Before Christine, I wasn't even having weekly team meetings! Hard to run a virtual company without consistent communication around the team.

  8. alexisneelyThursday, July 8, 2010 at 7:43 pm 

    Oh totally, I frequently felt/feel that guilt thing about delegating things I could do. Starting to realize I just have to get over it and do less and less and while it's the hardest thing I've ever done, I can see it starting to seriously pay off.

  9. alexisneelyThursday, July 8, 2010 at 7:43 pm 

    Hire slow and fire fast. If you can. Oh, and I found taking the Kolbe – kolbe.com – and having potential team members do the same was good in my prior business and considering having everyone do it again for my current business.

  10. Martha GiffenThursday, July 8, 2010 at 7:57 pm 

    I think Christine Comaford is great also! Even though I started my biz hiring people to do the smaller, mundane tasks, it has been more difficult to trust people with some of the larger tasks. I'm not sure it's a socio-economic mindset as much as a “woman” thing! LOL

  11. MaryKay MorganThursday, July 8, 2010 at 8:02 pm 

    I love this post because it is a great example of how unaware we can be of our limiting patterns because they are so a part of who we are. They are the water we live in and sometimes we simply need to perceive from a fresh angle.

    I worked for seven years as a fitness director for a very exclusive country club. Lots of Fortune 50 execs, a few billionaires, a handful of Senators and 2 state governors were members while I was on staff, and I can say for sure that the vast majority of the membership was raised in alignment with this observation from your friend:

    “The people from the upper classes are taught from an early age that you hire people to do things, trust them to get it done and fire them if they don’t.”

    Perhaps that is why they were so accomplished.

    Thanks Alexis for the reminder.

  12. Geoff HoffThursday, July 8, 2010 at 8:15 pm 

    This is great! I've had some general thoughts in this direction but nothing so concrete as how you put it. Yes, we do have that ethic, what I was taught was the Protestant Work Ethic, that you must do it and must do it yourself. Even though I know this isn't so, I still live by it. Sad. And fixable.


  13. brittmichaelianThursday, July 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm 

    OMG- Raising my hand right now because I am totally the one who cleans up AFTER the house cleaner leaves! LOL.

    Why didn't I fire her when she clearly wasn't cutting the mustard?

    Because she is a good person and I trust her deeply. Yes, I know that I didn't hire her just so I could like and trust someone, but when someone comes into my home, the most important thing for me- above all else- is that I can trust them. My kids live there. So, I could handle a little sweeping for a trustworthy cleaner but I decided I respected her enough to tell her that she was capable of more.

    Now, my bigger point here is that I agree that you need to get the right members on your team to get the job done, but in order to have a great team, you need to first be a great LEADER.

    So, what did I do to fix the problem of having to clean up after the cleaning lady left? I got on Goggle Translate and asked her to make sure there were no more dust bunnies in the corners of the rooms or crumbs under the dining room table. Then, I thanked her with a cup of tea when she did clean them all. 😉

    Worked like a charm! And if it hadn't… I would have fired her! 😉
    (thank god I didn't have to!)

  14. Debra Gould, EntrepreneurFriday, July 9, 2010 at 6:06 pm 

    Alexis, the class comparison was a perfect way to illustrate the two mindsets, and the one that holds most of us back.

    I too am guilty of making excuses for people's poor performance, and get stuck in my fear that the next person could be even worse. When I do finally get fed up enough to move on, it's amazing how often the replacement is SO MUCH BETTER!

  15. KarissaTuesday, July 13, 2010 at 12:36 am 

    Never thought of it like that but its so true!

    I am really bad a delegating but I know that if I want to become more, I better be learning.

  16. JustinbSaturday, February 8, 2014 at 11:06 pm 

    I have a girlfriend who has a masters degree. but since she was brought up with a lower class mindset of do everything yourself she is stuck. she works part time at a grocery store in addition to being an administrative assistant. Every time I try to give here opportunities to use her research skill on a project that I have she just blows it off. What can I do

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