Maria Gavriel (@mariagavriel_businesscoach) is a leadership and business coach who helps business owners and leaders create more effective teams while freeing themselves to enjoy 4-day and even 3-day work weeks.
In this episode, Bobby talks with Maria about her process for getting clear on your zone of genius and figuring out what you should keep on your plate or delegate. Maria shares how she helps leaders get curious and build better, more productive teams that turn their vision into reality without overwhelm or burnout.
Bobby: So tell the listeners a little bit about you and what your company does.
Maria: So we love to help business owners and entrepreneurs go from a startup to building a business that they love and scaling it without all the sacrifice that actually comes with having a successful business. A lot of times people feel like their business is running them instead of them running it.
So really helping them get from this place of feeling this overwhelm where they’re trying to manage all these moving components that come with scaling and growing. Create some automation, some standard operating procedures, even bringing in an efficient team so that they can get to this place where their business actually does provide them some kind of freedom lifestyle that they were originally hoping for when they started it.
Bobby: What is the overall journey that customers take with you from not knowing your company exists to becoming raving fans?
Maria: What our clients love the most is the breakthrough that they finally have when they find themselves being in this place where they left a previous environment, previous job or corporate world or whatever they were doing before and then they finally go ahead and take this leap of faith and they start their business. And there’s a lot that’s involved. And they find themselves in this kind of doom and gloom space at some point in their timeline where they feel like, Oh, this sounded great at first, but now I’m so worn out. And I thought I can do this, but I’m actually considering leaving, closing it down or going back to corporate world.And when they come to the call or our first meeting in that space where they feel like I have to throw in the towel. I’m done. I don’t see this working anymore. My health is suffering, my family, my parenting. There’s no self care anymore. I’m working more at this business than I was working for someone else. And we find that when they finally get that breakthrough and they come out on the other side.
They finally get to experience even a four day work week. They start to see things at work and they can reconnect with what it is that they started and their passion. That is what becomes deeply fulfilling for them, for me as well, and my team. And that is what actually makes them into raving fans.
That is what makes them believe in, okay, this is possible again. I can have a business and have some kind of freedom schedule as well. This does happen. This is reality. It’s not just things people sell to us, you know, in a webinar. And when they finally get there, that’s the breakthrough. That’s what creates raving fans. In the end, that’s what creates referrals for us all the time.
Bobby: So speaking of, bringing referrals into your business, what was your initial approach to bringing in new clients to this business? And how has that strategy and approach shifted over the years?
Maria: It’s very referral based. One of our clients did a nice post saying, my business used to run me, and now I own business for the first time.
IAnd people say, well, what did you do? And so they’ll say, I hired a business coach. And so referrals are still working very organically, thankfully. And I will say, though, however, that that only goes so far. And eventually we had to also put in systems, hire team, an efficient team, the right team.
I had to myself, my own pain, figure out what is it that I really want to be doing and not doing. And so, obviously, through my own pain, that’s how I created my own systems and eventually created an automation from ads to funnels to converting clients. So that’s now another leg of our business.
That’s worked really well. Thankful to you for that. I’m thankful to say that that’s been automated. I haven’t had to get my hands too involved with that. I’m not that good at it. So I’m happy to pass it on and outsource it. So that’s helped a lot realizing what to let go of.
Bobby: I would love to explore one of the things you said. You’re bringing on team, you’re expanding the business, and you’re figuring out what you do and don’t want to do. How do you figure that out?
Maria: Yeah, such a great question. The first thing that I have to do and we help others do is get super clear on what your zone of genius is. What is it that you love to do? Are really good at doing? And what is it that lights you up? Where you feel like, would, I could do this for free.
Getting clear on what that is, and we call that the pie. That’s your area that’s sweet as pie, right? And we’ve created this system called Pie and Pain. It’s basically two columns. You get super clear on what it is that you love to do and are good at doing. That could be two different things sometimes. From there, also getting super clear on what it is that you’re not good at and also hate doing. You could be good at something, but it could just drain you. It could be a time suck. You could hate it. So getting those two areas really clear.
From there, you can then take that next step and start to outsource, hire either your first VA or assistant or really reorganize the structure of an existing team. And that’s something that we do with companies that have teams of 10 and up.
That’s a very different type of leadership. And sometimes a lot has been outsourced. But we realize that maybe that wasn’t done in the most efficient way, or maybe something that you gave to one person, that’s not the right person for that job either. So we actually have team members doing the pie and pain exercise as well.
We want to hear from our teams. Like, do you love what you’re doing? Do you love your role? Do you love the tasks that are involved in your daily schedule? If not, then let’s also outsource some of what you’re doing and stick you in your zone of genius as well. So what applies to us as leaders and founders applies to the team as well.
So we let that trickle out throughout the entire company. And so bringing in people that love what they do. Like I don’t do tech. I would be horrible. It would be a time suck. I would be stuck on one thing that could take another person five minutes to do. It would take me five hours. Might as well give that off to someone else and just stay in the area that I love to be in. And that’s actually what keeps you in the game longer. It keeps you invested and your heart filled when you show up for work every day.
Bobby: So I’d love to dig into the actual outsourcing and delegation part. Imagine one of us went through the exercise. And we see, okay, I’m ready to expand. But maybe I only want to do 20 to 30%. That’s really my sweet spot. And the rest I’m ready to hand off tomorrow. But let’s say that’s not possible. I can’t just go to a virtual assistant or somebody else and go, here’s 70% of the business workload. Good luck. So how do you go about on that first day, figuring out what can I outsource and delegate first and how do I figure out, what are the different things that I can let go of over time?
Maria: This is where vision comes in. So what is the vision for your company for this quarter for this year, the next five years, right?
And get really clear on like, okay, what are the three best ways? The best routes, the best pathways for me to get there. Do not try to do a million things. I was in that category as well. I got caught up in this world where we have way too many options and we’re trying to do way too many things. And we think, oh, how about if I do the webinar, the Facebook challenge or the YouTube videos. And we start doing a million things.
Forget all that. What are the three best ways for you to get to that goal that you want to reach with your company on year one? And keep it simple. Create a plan of how are you gonna actually execute that. And when you’re looking at those steps, yes, there’s gonna be certain things that aren’t in your zone of expertise. But I think it’s important to get your hands dirty. I’m not saying stay in it for the long haul. But if you can take on some of this and realize, okay, year one, I might be all in and yes, I may be working more for this business because it’s in startup mode than I did for the employer. And just be invested in that way for year one. Then by year two, you’ll be in a place where you can actually hire someone and also articulate your needs.
I remember, okay, one of my pathways was marketing. I knew nothing about marketing back 10 years ago, I hired someone and I actually couldn’t articulate. I would say one thing and something else was done. And there was this breakdown in our communication because I was like, wait, I wanted this. And she said, well, that’s what I provided you. I said, but what I really need is this. So I couldn’t even speak marketing language, right? But that’s because I hadn’t gotten my hand dirty and it was premature to outsource that.
So, I got into it. I learned a certain amount. I did not become a marketing expert and nor did I plan to. But I learned enough where I can then delegate. And I also learned enough to realize I definitely don’t want to be doing this. But it’s important. So it stays in my plan, but that becomes a thing that I start to outsource because I experienced it. And now it just validated how I feel about it and whether or not I can be good at it. So that’s one of the ways that you can start delegating.
Bobby: There’s two really interesting things that I heard you say there. So the first is, especially with the bigger pillars in your business, you need to have experience with them. So you can speak the jargon, the language of the people who do that full time. To at least be able to communicate your vision, communicate what you want to have happen. And then the other thing that I heard you say is the actual act of delegation and outsourcing is itself a focusing function. You have all these things that you hand off, but in that process, you’re like, well, should I even be doing some of these things? Focusing in on what actually matters and that by the time you get to actually delegating it, you’ve literally simplified your business.
Maria: Yes.exactly. And the only way to really get there is by dancing the dance. Experiencing it, at least during year one. and I will add in there, I’m just going to revisit that one part in the beginning where I said get clear on those three pathways. Those pathways should light you up, should excite you, should be something that you also do enjoy. So for me, for example, one of them was public speaking.
I love it. It feeds me. It’s like socializing for me. So it’s still one of those legs that’s been there from the beginning. That’s not something I’ll ever outsource. It’s a great way to connect with the right clients in the right space. And so making sure that yeah, pick three pathways and just start with something that does light you up.
Bobby: So you have a diverse set of experiences with growing businesses in different industries and niches. And some have grown actually very quickly. Some have grown to seven figures in a very quick period of time. What frameworks and lessons have you taken from the growth of those different businesses that you’re now applying to your own business and in your clients businesses?
Maria: Yeah, I think I’m going to reiterate and highlight the pie and pain. I still revisit that every single year at the start of the year. Here’s what I’m going to be doing and here’s what I’m not going to be doing. And that has been my biggest lesson, which is why it’s still part of the plan every year. From there though, the next step is okay, since I’m going to start leading a team now, I’m going to hire that first VA, and I’m going to start giving off some of these things that are in my pain column or my time suck column.
It’s leadership that really needs to come into play and very specific leadership. And it’s not the kind of leadership that I grew up in. And the first few industries I was trained in. I was in the legal field, and I worked for the biggest firms in the country. And I saw leadership there, but it was a varied type of leadership.
And I will say, looking back now, it was leadership that led to a lot of toxic culture. It was very, very different. There was no buy-in by the team. They weren’t even considered teams back then. You showed up, you had to do a specific job. But nobody asked you your pain. Do you like what you do? It doesn’t matter. Just get it done. And I think those were moments where I learned, wow, I would never want to create a company like this or ever work for a company like this again. And I see that a lot with our clients that have grown big teams. I feel like we’ve all had this ingrainment about how to lead a company, and that is getting flipped on its head now. And that’s something that I’m loving being a contribution for. Switching leadership around and making it more of the kind of leadership where you’re doing more listening, more mentorship and more surrendering. We learned from our mistakes with a lot of those multi million dollar companies. We would have people leave all the time and think of the cost of having to retrain and rehire. And that is just not cost effective. It’s time consuming, it’s draining. And then six months down the line or a year, you’re doing it again. So clients really need to think about that.
So I would say leadership and looking at our org charts and just making sure that everybody’s in a place where they love to be. And when they are, they show up differently for your company. And then when they’re clear on why they’re there, your why and their why, and that’s aligned. That’s a whole other team right there. Letting go of what I always think a leader should be from old wiring to how can I be a better listener and I actually let my teams guide processes.
I think I have a plan laid out really well. I’m willing to toss it in the garbage and say, wow, that plan is even better. I did not know that based on your expertise, let’s do that. That sounds awesome. So being willing to just be vulnerable, listen more and actually be guided as a leader by the people that are willing to show up for your company, I think is key.
Bobby: You’veseen behind the scenes of many clients and your own businesses over the years. What are some of the common mistakes that new leaders make?
Maria: Micro management. When we start off with someone that, again, is at this like dark and gloom breaking point where they’re thinking, I need to shut this down. Most of the time when we ask why, the overall answer, if I were to summarize it is, I feel like I’m always putting out fires. And to me, the subtext of that is micromanagement. And if I were to go further, the undercurrent of that is lack of trust. So it’s people thinking that no one’s actually going to do this as well as I would like for it to be or I think it should be. And so we get into the mindset first, which most people aren’t seeing. And we increase trust between the leaders and the teams. And when I say leaders, it could be the team leader, not just the CEO.We do that in many different ways, but we get to this point where everyone feels comfortable to surrender and outsource and let go of the things that they think won’t be done as well.
And so that does require time, and it does require communication. And it does require a certain kind of leadership. We have people going away with their family and going on that vacation. But then they’re in the bathroom or the room sending out emails and managing a situation back home. So they’re never fully present. So it’s micromanagement that really is a clog in the system.
Bobby: Yeah, I really resonate with that. If I can do it a hundred percent, what if they can only do it 80%, that kind of thing. How do you help clients work through that barrier to getting that trust, building that trust and letting go?
Maria: A lot of times we find where the breakdown is in leadership.
We have one client currently. Two people had to be let go of because we realized that they actually didn’t want that leadership position. Nobody knew that. And it showed and that lack of productivity, let’s just say. Which was then at the expense of other team members.
So other team members burning out. Other team members have less productivity. And so what we do is we try to find where the breakdowns are down the line. See if we could correct that. A lot of times we’ll do that by just asking questions. Like the Socratic method. And just going in and asking our team leaders where they’re at. If they’re still happy with their role. If they were to change something, what would it be? Do they need support? Do they need help? Are they burned out? Where is it that we can jump in and support them so they could do a better job? And that’s the job of a leader. Sometimes we restructure the entire team. Some people leave on their own. Sometimes they don’t like that when someone comes in and starts cleaning house like that. But all we’re trying to do is create improvement. And then when we get to the founders, the higher ups, we try to take a look at their mindset.
Whatever’s happening, it usually starts from the top, right? So we take a look at, okay, well, how do you feel about your three team leaders? Or should we switch this around? Maybe you don’t like overseeing three people either. They will realize this is just too much management for me. I want to do more of my sales, let’s say. I’d rather go out and meet with potential leads. Okay, great. So can we have someone else do your job and you just focus on sales? We just restructure the existing system so that it can run more optimally.
We’ll get rid of things that people thought were a good idea initially and not. So we just go in and just clean house the first couple of months. For the most part, the intention is never to eliminate the team. The intention is to support people to grow and hit that and reach their capacity. Or hit that next level. And just expand their leadership.
So I would say the number one way, if I were to summarize that. Ask a lot of questions, and never assume anything as a leader. Ever. Hear from your team, take the guesswork out, let them tell you what needs improvement and then go from there.
Bobby: Yeah. It’s really interesting hearing you say that. Because what I’m hearing kind of the through line is a lot of leaders get stuck when they are making assumptions, when they’re kind of stuck in one way. And you’re coming in as the outside force that is being curious. That’s bringing that curiosity into the organization. But if they can embody that curiosity themselves, they’ll be able to hear what’s really going on and make those adjustments.
Maria: Absolutely. Yeah. And most of the time that’s missing. For whatever reason. I’m not sure why, but most of the time people think leadership is delegation, leading and execution.
I say it’s more ask questions and allow your team to show you the way. You’d be surprised. It’s very revealing. You think people are happy doing one thing and yet they haven’t been happy for a very long time.
I’m going to add something in there. The other thing that we do is we flipped quarterly reviews on their head. Sometimes reviews just go on once a year. We make sure those go on every quarter. And we change that around where we actually have the staff, the teams evaluate their leader. We have a lot of questions in there. We have them self gauge and self evaluate. Where do you think you are with this role? This task? If you’re at a five out of 10, what’s one thing that you think will bring you to that six? What kind of support will you need to get to that next level? And then we have another column that says, and how can your leader improve in these areas? How can your leader support you? So we want to hear what our team thinks of us. Maybe we’re just not doing as great of a job as we thought we were. And that’s important to have revealed to us so that we know what we need to do.
Bobby: It sounds like as a leader in that situation, you need a high degree of humility. How do you coach leaders to open themselves up to criticism in that way?
Maria: Yeah. So pretty much every company has not had that feature in there. So before we add the feature in our quarterly reviews, we have a coaching call and we let them know the value and the benefit of that and what the result is.
So we have to get them prepared. We do that through one or two calls. We kind of create this reframe of how important and how valuable and how this information is actually going to make their company. The other thing that’s really important is a lot of times we’ll find a hesitation in the team. And we’ll usually see that as a break and trust somewhere. If we can’t trust our leaders to be open in that way, and we can’t be vulnerable, we see that there’s a breakdown there.
So we try to also create a coaching call where we start to create a safe space for that kind of communication. And we let the team know how important it is to have that in place as well and where we’re going with it. No one’s going to get penalized. We start to create a safe zone for communication, vulnerable communication in that way. Sometimes managers and leaders don’t agree with it. We try to just keep them open to, well, what if this was the truth? What if? What if this was the case? And just go from there and plan.
Bobby: So I imagine it might be difficult with some leaders where you might say like, this is how you get there. But they go, I don’t really wanna focus on the mindset piece. I just wanna focus on the things that we’re doing. I wanna focus on the technical. The tactical. What have you seen happen with leaders who never embrace the mindset and the approach and the leadership style. And they really just try to focus on the tactical and what are you doing?
Maria: It’s funny. I love that you touched on that because I actually have clients that say, Oh no, we’re having the woo woo conversation when we talk about mindset.
Because it’s so important and that is a driving factor of the breakdown.I do my best on my part to just keep reframing and helping them see the value. And what if we were to just adjust this one thing? This one thing, right? Let’s just see what happens. And I let them know that the benefit of just testing things out.
I could be totally wrong. And that’s okay. I’m okay with being totally wrong. But what if we were to just set this up in this way? Listen. Get the value from our teams. And implement certain strategies and systems as a result of the information that we get, and let’s just see what happens from there. Are you willing to do that?
So it’s getting that buy-in. Constantly helping them see the end result of, let’s just try this one ingredient to get to that cake that you want to create. I know you’ve never used sugar alternative, right? But let’s just try it because it might make a healthier cake. Just give it a try. And I do use analogies like that all the time to create that that buy in from them. Help them connect with the why behind the strategy we’re implementing.
Bobby: Without naming names and not even necessarily saying your own clients. But what have you seen happen when leaders don’t do what’s necessary on their own end and their own leadership style and mindset and the woo-woo stuff. What happens if they don’t do that? What are the consequences?
Maria: It either stays the same. And to be totally honest, we do eventually get there. So I can’t say I have much experience with that. Because our clients will get there. We’re being hired to get them there. We have to do our best. But what I will say is what I have seen from clients that see it as like a woo woo conversation. And they just never worked that way. It’s just completely new to them. So there’s a delay in progress and so they’re still seeing a lot of the same. And so I’ll say okay, if we don’t do something differently and we continue as you have been up until now. What do you think would change? It’s really helping them see that something does have to shift. And if it doesn’t, we could do it your way. Because we get paid right out of the gate. I can stay here as long as you want and just keep doing the same thing. Or we can try something different. And so takes a little bit to get them over the hump, but they do get there. They do start to try things differently. And thankfully so. Because then we finally start to see a change.
Bobby: Yeah, that’s great to hear that you’ve had such success getting your clients to do that. Even if they were reluctant at first. Because it’s like the definition of insanity, just keep doing the same things over and over and hoping for different results.
I think what usually happens is they experience so much pain. Change could be hard. Or a slower process for some. And I think once the pain gets worse, it becomes more of a motivator for them to just surrender. And be like, okay, whatever. Just give me the pill. I’ll take, I’ll do it. Just make it go away. And it hurts me too. I see the pain that it causes them. I see the breakdown it causes in their personal life. And yes, as a part of me that wants to get them there faster, but you kind of have to flow with the person you’re working with right at their pace.
Maria: But a lot of the times it gets to the point where. I know it may sound strange, but I have adults. These are powerful business owners, amazing people that come to the call crying because they do feel like they have to let go of this beautiful, this baby they created. This business that they put so much time, energy, heart, sweat, blood, tears in. That now they’re like, why is it breaking down? And they feel like they have to choose between that and their health. Or that and their family.
I had a client who just found out she was pregnant with her second. And she’s like I couldn’t even manage it with the one. I don’t think I can have this business and have a second child. It’s just not gonna work. We’re already at a breaking point with my partner. And to hear them feel like they’re at a place where they have to choose is for me, heartbreaking. I can’t imagine what it is for them because they created it. So when they hit that breaking point, I think that’s when it’s easier to actually work with them and for them to try new things.
So I’ve been digging into the bad side of things, but I would love to hear the upside. So you work with clients, they make these changes quickly, or sometimes they take a little bit longer to get there, but eventually in the end they do make these changes. What are the good things that have happened for clients in the business itself, but also in their personal lives?
Yeah. And what you said right there at the end. That right there. Once they make the change in their business, it trickles out into their personal lives. And that’s actually the icing on the cake. Because they’re not coming to work with me because they want to work on their personal life.
They’re not coming to me because yes, their health is breaking down or they’re burning out or something’s going on. They need help with their business. And when we finally align their business with their vision and align their professional life with their personal life, that is the ultimate breakthrough. And that to me, yes, that’s the cherry on top. That’s the icing on the cake. And I think that’s what makes them into raving fans afterwards. Because they see, Oh my God, I did these 10 things here. Holy cow. My whole life has changed. And ultimately that’s what they’re really coming there for. To fix what’s going on with work. So they could enjoy their life more. That’s why they started their business.
I think my favorite is when we initially start with making adjustments just so they’re not working 60 hours a week, 80 hours a week. Seven days a week. And some people are like, I just wanna go back to working like 40 hour work week.
And initially I started my business not to have a 40 hour work week. But if I can just go to 40 hours, I’ll feel some kind of normal. So when we exceed that expectation, when we get to this point where some of them have created a four day work week, a three day work week. That’s why I show up for work every day.
There’s one specific client that I’ll never forget her story. She was in this place, showed up in the same way, we made the adjustments. About a year later her husband shows up with his dream of owning farmland. He always wanted to grow his own food and buy a lot of land. That was his dream. And she’s in the organizing business, a home organizing business. And she felt like she had to be local. And she thought she would have to say no to her husband’s dream, which she didn’t want to. So we had arrived at this place where she was working a four day work week instead of seven days a week. And we hired a regional director. She was able to move six hours away. Her husband now has the land. She enjoys a whole new life. She’s actually growing, working less and also helping her husband live out his dream while she’s living out her dream.
And it is possible, you don’t have to give it up. And this is someone that thought she had to give it up. Instead, she expanded. It’s stories like that, that just fill my heart every day. And makes me love what I do.
Bobby: Thank you for sharing that story. That’s really awesome to hear that she was able to do that.
Maria: My pleasure. Yeah.
Bobby: What advice would you give to business owners who are looking to drive more growth in their business?
Maria: Believe that it’s possible to build this dream and also believe that it’s possible that it can provide a freedom lifestyle for you. If you just implement certain things, maybe shift some mindsets. And always remember… to stick to what it is that you’re good at and what you love to do. And just start giving, outsourcing the rest. And that’s going to keep you in the game way longer. And if you need support to get there then get the support. But know that you don’t have to burn out along the way. And that’s just something that’s just recurring way too much these days. Burnout’s a real thing.So take it seriously. Anddon’t wait for it to get to that point where you’re suffering, your health is suffering or your life is suffering. Stick to what you love. Outsource the rest. Get the help to do it.
Bobby: I love what you said there about believe, because sometimes it can be difficult to see what’s on the other side or even imagine what’s on the other side. But if you can just believe that you are taking the right actions, you are moving towards that better future. Whether it’s delegating or adopting leadership skills that you need. Believing that there’s gonna be that brighter future on the other side.
Maria: Yes. Amen. Yeah, they’ll carry you through.
Bobby: So where can people find you?
Maria: Best way I would say is my website, MariaGavriel.Com. I do actually have that Pie & Pain sheet available there. There’s a lot of resources that you can start with that, like I said, are so valuable. We continue to use them year after year or so do our clients and they’re great. There’s other resources on leadership, hiring a dream team, and things like that. So landing there is a good place to start.
Bobby: And then anything else you’d like to leave with our listeners?
Maria: As a woman, as a mom, as a partner, a wife, a business owner, I really want everyone to remember, yes, believe. And remember how important it is for us to get rid of some old ways of working. We don’t have to burn ourselves to the ground. We don’t have to lead in some masculine way. That doesn’t feel right for us. It’s important for us to crack some codes, pave new pathways and continue building our businesses and fulfilling our dreams. And I want to say we need to model that for our kids and the next generation for all of us who has some kind of dream or passion in their heart. If they see us shut it down and kill the dream, what are we teaching them? I’m just going to go into my deeper why as to why I do what I do, which is please keep going. And if you have to trailblaze and do something completely different than what you’ve been trained or know, go ahead and figure out what that is or. Or get the help and and just keep going.