A few weeks ago, when former major league baseball player and current reality star, Jose Canseco tried to send his twin brother, Ozzie, to fight in his place at a celebrity boxing event in Miami, everyone went crazy. The promoter was furious, the venue wanted to sue, the fans were irate, even the sports journalists who used to cover Canseco chimed in with their outrage and disgust.
Now think about this for a second. A group of ticket holders who presumably were interested in watching a boxing match were irate that a former, steroid-using major league baseball player who has no business being in a boxing ring sent his identical twin brother, also a former, steroid-using, major league baseball player brother who equally has no business being in a boxing ring, as his proxy for a fight. Jose sent Ozzie, a guy who is the exact same size, has the exact same face, and most importantly, SHARES THE EXACT SAME DNA, to fight in his place and the fans revolted. Why?
The obvious answer, of course, would be that they didn’t like being deceived. But there is another possibility and it’s something that impacts your relationships all the time. Our brains don’t like fakes, duplicates, or replacements. Your customers want to talk to you, not your service rep. Your clients want to meet with you, not your project manager. Your patients want to be seen by you, not your PA or nurse. We want the real thing, even when the replacement is just as knowledgeable, just as qualified, and just as capable.
Being in charge gives you what noted psychologist Paul Bloom calls “the essence.” It’s the thing that causes us to prefer the Rolex watch over the knockoff, even when they both keep good time. Why a baseball fan will risk life and limb diving after a foul ball, but not pay $2.00 for the exact same thing being sold in a concession stand. And why a teenage girl would never have a t-shirt worn by Justin Bieber dry-cleaned, no matter how sweaty and disgusting it was. (Depending on your age, please feel free to substitute Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy, Leif Garrett, or Justin Timberlake for JB).
Having that “essence” may be flattering, but it definitely has it’s downside. For one thing, it can put serious demands on your time. There aren’t enough hours in the day for you to accomplish everything you want if your door is always opening, your phone never stops ringing, and your email box keeps filling up. But it also has an impact on the growth, and sometimes the transition, of your organization. When your clients, customers, patients and employees need to take every problem and every question to you, rather than following the structure or chain of command you put in place, it weakens your organization and limits its potential to your own personal capacity. And if your name is on the door of your company, it makes it very difficult to transition out or sell the value to someone else, when everyone thinks you are the only essence to the place.
This is why relationships are so important. Your surrogates and proxies may have all the skills they need to address your client's problems exactly the way you would, but without establishing a relationship and creating their own essence, they will always be perceived as a lesser choice. If you want to find more free time for your own life, and grow your business beyond yourself, you need to help the people around you build better and more direct relationships with those who currently look to you for everything. You need to be able to let go and not hoard all the essence for yourself.
Maybe your ego will take a hit. But that's a heck of lot better than having the crap beat out of you in a boxing ring.