This website, and the associated book, are dedicated to every woman who’s ever broken through a barrier, violated a taboo, or overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve what seemed impossible, but was merely difficult . . . without even breaking a nail, or whining about it if she did.
“Age is not important unless you’re cheese.” – Helen Hayes, an American actress whose career is said to have span 80 years.
When I saw her quote for the first time, it made me think of two things:
- The really good cheese I enjoy that takes time to age.
- The people I know who are doing amazing things and “have aged” according to cultural concepts of aging.
One of those people who stands out to me is someone named Sherry Saterstrom. I met Sherry when I was a college student and she was a dance professor. She has the kind of voice recognizable from across a room. She expresses the energy of what she’s communicating in exclamations and punctuative sound. Similarly, she is nimble and quick, and the most energetic and curious person I have ever met. At the time, she was also almost 70 years of age.
While I was at school, I took several of her dance classes, one of them I even took twice just because it meant more time around Sherry. We learned anatomy, physiology, evolution, somatics, dance, and improvisation, and practiced something we now call “Mindful Movement.” As students, we watched and learned as this limber and spritely woman showed us how with an attention to alignment you can be in the middle of lecture and discover you can do a handstand (this literally happened one day while we were in class).
When I think of someone who doesn’t let anything, like expectations around what someone at age 70 should be doing, I think of Sherry. In fact, her more recent jump from teaching into what most people call retirement also took a more unconventional route.
After spending 30 years (of one year contracts) teaching dance at St. Olaf College, Sherry decided it was time for one great life phase to end. No, she wasn’t retiring. As a St. Olaf alumnus herself, she told everyone, “I’m finally graduating.”
During her time teaching at St. Olaf, she had never gone on sabbatical, so her first year after “graduation” she set aside as “sabbatical.” She gardened, cross country skied, cooked, organized her home office, and probably ate yummy cheese. But she didn’t sit around in the fridge like cheese. In fact, winter, when Minnesota feels the most like a refrigerated world, is when Sherry loves to be outside the most.
This year, she told me she’s looking for a market. She’s ready to start her own venture about mindful moving and fitness.
“This is an idea I had 20 years ago, but when I was thinking about it then, I was 20 years too early!” She says, “Today, even when I go to the Y for my cross fit class I hear the trainers talking about being mindful. Who knows, maybe I’m still wrong and it’s too early, but I think there’s a wider awareness now about what mindfulness is and that makes me look for a market to launch a venture offering new kinds of classes.”
Lessons about Age
Listening to Sherry’s story, I wonder: how did she know this was the idea she wanted to go for? In some ways, it was because it’s something that she has been fascinated by for decades. In other ways, it’s because she has seen other people talking about the concepts she wants to build a business around. Either way, her age has given her the advantage to see her idea in a broader context.
That tells me two things:
- We all have potential skills and value to offer already inside us. Like an expensive cheese, we have so much depth and richness that can create value in the world today. Potentially, even greater value the more we age!
- Hearing about other people thinking the same thing isn’t a bad signal. In fact, it may be a signal the idea you have is even more worth doing. Timing is critical in launching and getting traction around a business, and knowing your idea resonates with people who may be future customers is a great signal you’re onto something good.
While things are still early for Sherry, what I love about her journey into “retirement” so far is that it’s characterized by a clear intention to throw out the window all the things we think “should” happen as we get older. Instead, she plans to continue to be curious about what’s next. No venture is too big or too small when you set your mind to it and begin to see all the possibility. Who knows, maybe Sherry’s career in dance will eventually rival Helen Hayes’ career in acting. If you’re going to have that much life, what are you going to get up to?
If you’re curious about what this world of mindfulness that Sherry has seen come to life looks like, take a peek at the Mindful Movement Intro Series from Aging Courageously.
When it’s your business on the line, it makes sense to want to control every aspect of it. However, taking on too much or doing everything yourself are good ways to get burnt out. Once you do, you are no longer effective, and your business could suffer.
Owning or running a business is a big responsibility, but you don’t have to do it alone. You can choose what you want to focus on and then delegate other tasks to staff members. When you learn to delegate, everything runs smoother.
So how do you find that balance? Here are some tips on how to decide what you want to control and what you want to delegate to others.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
As children, we are taught we have to work ourselves to death to be successful. Later in life, we find out that is not really the case. A better way is to work smarter, not harder.
Before you start your day, identify a few priorities that you need to get done. Don’t make a big list, just the top five. Focus on each one for 90 minutes and then take a break to recharge.
Use good management software and mobile apps to help you collaborate and communicate easily with your team. Software like Slack, Asana, and Google can help you to share the load. Let technology take some of the burden off of you.
Effectively Managing Staff
You’ve hired your superstar team of high-performers now it’s time to put them to the test. Instead of babysitting their every move, train them well and give them the resources and support to do their job effectively. Giving them responsibility frees you up to manage your business.
Your focus needs to be on strategy and keeping all the pieces together. You oversee a lot of departments, and if you are doing all the work, you will not be able to see the big picture. Take a step back and delegate to your staff all those little tasks that eat up your day.
Put into place checkpoints and milestones where your employees update you, so you know where they are regarding progress. The simple act of setting expectations ensures you will have the information you need when you need it. Removing worry from the equation will help you clarify what your job should be.
Hand Over the Keys
Highlight employees skills and motivate them with praise on the things they are doing well. Minimize their shortcomings and try not to dwell on them as much. You do not want a demoralized workforce.
Once you hand over the keys and let someone else drive, you’ll be able to survey the landscape and brainstorm new ideas. You will also have the time and energy to manage your teams more effectively without finite thinking. Expand your horizon by delegating and get more than you ever expected.
Until you take the plunge and try handing over some of your daily tasks, you won’t believe how freeing it can be. You have a mental list already of the things you would like to do someday if you had the time. Make the time today by delegating those pesky jobs that get in the way of progress.
Train Your People Well
Nothing can replace a good training program. If you want your staff to excel, train them well and provide useful resources and support. Give them wings to fly, and they will surprise you by taking off and soaring with your business goals in hand.
It’s hard to trust others with something you know you do the best. So, train them to do it exactly the way you do and how you want it done. Monitor their progress in the beginning and, when you are satisfied, let them take over that task without micromanaging them.
Make common tasks repeatable, so they are easy for anyone to take over. Document and create video instructions to make it easy for new hires to follow the process. Implement systems so you can trust your people will do things the way you want them.
Balancing Delegation With Cash Flow Expectations
A harsh reality of being a small business owner is dealing with cash flow. When it’s just you, it is easier, but when you are paying a staff, things can get more complicated. The good news is that this can help you determine what to delegate or outsource.
The key to managing finances for your business is to know where you stand at any given moment. You don’t have to dig deep into every number, but you should be aware of the big picture and what you need to pay and what you expect for revenue.
In some cases, it might make more fiscal sense for you to take on some tasks rather than delegate them. If you can do it cheaper without compromising your efficiency, then save the money. However, if you struggle with certain jobs, it might be better to outsource them and spend the money to get them right.
Benefits of Delegating
Delegating frees you up to focus on the larger issues of moving your business forward. Growth is where you should be putting your energy. Leave the day-to-day minutia to the people you hired to handle it.
Delegation and trust build confidence and commitment in employees. People like to be involved and trusted to do their jobs well. Positive reinforcement to employees is like honey to flies.
You as the boss are the big picture thinker and strategist. When you share the work, you demand the respect of those working for you. Delegation shows you are a team player and trust your employees to work with you, not just for you.