BE’ing A SUCCESSFUL LEADER

LeaderIf you want to be successful as a business leader, you need to project a high level of confidence. You need confidence in your abilities (self-confidence); confidence in your team’s abilities; and confidence in your strategic plan (you followed a disciplined thought process to create a winning strategy and you have clearly specified what actions need to be taken to execute your plan). Here are 10 more things that will help you be more successful:

1. Self-awareness.

As mentioned above, a healthy degree of self-confidence is crucial in a leader – but it needs to be tempered with self-awareness. You are not super (wo)man. You have strengths and weaknesses like everyone else.

Acknowledge your weaknesses (for those under you already know them) and take steps to make them irrelevant. Surround yourself with people who think differently than you, and who balance out your weaknesses. Encourage them to debate and challenge your thinking every step of the way.

2. Not everyone is cut out for leadership (and that’s OK).

A common trap (sometimes referred to as the “Peter Principle”) is where a strong performer in a functional role is promoted to lead a team of people, and they begin to fail miserably at their new management role. Not everyone is cut out to lead people, and that is OK. Some people are better suited to being an expert in a specific area – and this needs to be encouraged with appropriate recognition, job title, and remuneration. Don’t make people feel obligated to lead a team of people just to earn a higher income and be perceived as achieving career success.

3. There are no right answers.

As Peter Drucker said, a decision is a judgment. It is rarely black and white, it is more a choice between different options – and even your best decision has a high probability of being wrong eventually. Even the most effective decision eventually becomes obsolete.

4. Do what you think is right.

Leaders must lead. Making decisions goes with the job. Gather a reasonable amount of data, involve other people to generate and debate a range of options. If everyone agrees at the outset, tell them to go away and come back with some counter viewpoints. Then follow your gut and do what you think is right.

5. Make fewer decisions.

Effective leaders do not make lots of decisions – rather they concentrate on making a few important ones. They make the big strategic decisions, rather than try to solve lots of little problems. Leaders who like to run around feeling like a hero putting out every fire are actually ineffective. Slow down, and make better decisions. Deal with the underlying issues; focus on decisions that will have the biggest long term impact.  Remember this . . .  The less management you need to do, makes you a better leader.

6. Make a decision and commit.

As Drucker said, act or do not act – but make a conscious decision and inform your team of your decision. Don’t dither. The surgeon does not take out half the tonsils. You either operate or you don’t. If you have to change course, then turn the wheel and change course. If you never fully commit to a course of action, all you will ever do is change course. The hardest part of any decision is not making it, it is executing it.

7. Execution is the #1 challenge.

Until you have broken your decision down into specific action steps and assigned single point accountability for the execution of each task – it is not a decision, it is just wishful thinking. Business execution software makes capturing and executing your decisions much easier.

8. Man up / Woman up.

We are all afraid at times – that is part of being human. If you are going to lead people in tough times, you will need to dig deep and be courageous. When your team sees worry and concern on your face, they lose confidence in your ability to lead.

9. You will fail sometimes.

Accept the fact that you are going to fail on occasion. Check back and test how well your decisions played out, and learn from your mistakes. Even your good decisions have a finite lifespan. Be willing to admit your mistakes. Be willing to change your mind. The assumptions you hold about your business model and your operating environment will become obsolete sooner or later. Reality does not stand still for long.

10. Life is short. Have fun!

Why should you expect your people to be positive and enthusiastic, if they don’t see it in you? I tend to be a bit serious myself – feel free to remind me of this tip next time you see me!

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THE POWER OF THE WORD . . . NO

The word NOA former business partner of mine once shared a Jewish saying, which goes something like . . . “You will never become wealthy until you learn the word NO”.

In current business phraseology, there are a number of popular words creeping into today’s vocabulary, such as: big picture, tipping point, critical mass, paradigm, cross-elasticity of demand, network marketing, leverage, outsourcing, actionable item,  C-Level, best practices, core competency, verticals, low hanging fruit, rain maker, scalable, uber, synergies, restricting resources, work-life balance, unique value proposition, streamlining, managing up and across, zero sum game, win-win deal, cube farm, competitive advantage, team players, fast track, bleeding edge technology, steep learning curve,  dynamic risk, empowerment, and the list goes on and on.

What is missing is one of the oldest, yet one of the most powerful words in today’s vocabulary, and that word is simply the word, “NO.”

So, why is it that we have such a hard time saying this simple, two-letter word?  Let’s take a look at yourself: are you constantly overloaded with work, working past the deadline, overstressed, the last person in the office to leave, and the only person in the office to consistently work 80 hours per week just to keep up.  All these are the consequences of not learning to say “NO” effectively.

Let’s make a distinction here between attempting too much and the inability to say NO. Those who attempt too much usually think they can do it all– besides no one can do the task or project as well as they can. This person projects maximum confidence about their ability (they usually let everyone know their amazing ability), in fact, they continually offer to take on more and more tasks and projects. They often think it makes them maintain their status of being the Super Achiever.  But, in the end they are setting themselves up for a great deal of stress, and possibly failure. These people usually have no priorities and therefore cannot distinguish between the important and the unimportant, the critical and non-critical, and the strategic and the non-strategic. So, they believe that everything has to be done and they are the only one that can get the job done.

Being unable to say NO is a function of:  not knowing how or when to say NO, having the need to please, feeling the need for constant recognition, or being afraid of offending. As a result, it is easier to say Yes to requests that should be turned down or delegated.

The flip side to this is an efficient and organized person knows their strategic plan and goals, their specific KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators), their job responsibilities that they alone are accountable for, and a clear understanding of their priorities. It is much easier, to say NO to taking on new tasks or projects which do not fit into their specific goals, job responsibilities, and priorities.

NO from an Employee . . .

So, have happens when, as you the business owner, you ask your employees to complete a task and you are told NO? As the boss, find out the other projects and tasks they are working on. Have them clearly define their work load and then you decide where the new assignment should fall in the list of assignments they are currently involved in. Then, let your employee know the priorities and deadlines for each, so you can have someone effectively manage their work flow and demands. Managing this way, there is no way your employee can be offended, as you are putting them in charge of guiding you in the decision making process.

Saying NO is just as important in your personal life. Finding yourself so busy with organizations, committees and kids’ activities can be just as stressful. Again, decide which are most important, and which your priorities are, and which can be put off until another time. This will help you say no when one more person comes to you asking you to chair another project or committee.

In the beginning it was easy . . .

In the beginning, an entrepreneur looks for all opportunities. In the beginning, the tendency is to say “Yes” to everything! “Yes” to this customer. “Yes” to this employee. “Yes” to this idea, process, system, or marketing plan. “Yes” to this product or service mix. As you gain business momentum and business maturity, you begin to see that good opportunities are those that enhance your company’s strengths, increase brand awareness, increase marketing share, and reinforces your strategic plan. Opportunities that don’t meet these criteria’s should be met with a polite but firm, “NO, thank you” and then delegated or scrapped altogether.

Some entrepreneurs never learn to say “NO” or in some cases they learn to say “NO” to everything.  This in turn creates an environment that can lead to stifling of creating thinking, killing workers motivation and ultimately creating a less than transparent communication flow.  Therefore, consider all the options first:

• Is this a something that warrants further consideration?

• Is this something that needs my full attention?

• Is this something that someone else can do effectively?

• Is this something that needs to be done now or later?

• Does this make me money or cost me money?

Conclusion

Consider the following . . . In a $1 million company, the business owner works an average 2,000 hours per year, this results in the business owners time worth $500 per hour.  So, is it worth the business owner’s time to do this task or responsibility at $500 per hour?

PS:  Here is a very funny video from Bob Newhart, about changing your habits and behavior .  .  .   http://youtu.be/BYLMTvxOaeE

WORK IS A FOUR LETTER WORD . . .

Big Why“Work isn’t meant to be fun – that’s why they call it ‘work’!”  -Anonymous

At first glance this seems irrelevant to being a business owner.  But, finding the ‘Why’ includes finding the original passion when you started the business, your original values and purpose, finding the satisfaction, and even the gratification.  On a basic business level, generating a profit can be seen as a reasonable objective. But why is finding the ‘Why’ so darn important?

We all recognize that running and building a business isn’t fun and games.  Have you ever felt that an essential element is missing in your work? Whatever happened to being happy? Do you remember when you first started your business, that feeling of happiness, when you could not wait to get out of bed and go to work?  This period of your life was when your passion and your ‘Why’ were closely connected.

So, Is The WHY About The Money?

In working with clients we find that many business owners maintain that money (or profit) is not the primary motivator for them. While they will readily agree that it is certainly important, they are almost unanimous agree that the so-called “profit motive” ranks fairly low on the list of reasons why they started their business in the first place. More interestingly, is the fact that business owners who view their business as nothing more than a vehicle for generating profit are in the minority.

We ask our clients at the start of their mentoring program, “So what it is that inspires them about their business?”  Then, we usually follow that with this question: “So what is it that you like about what you do?”  We ask this because the response is often linked to what brings that business owner the most gratification and happiness in their business! While one of the biggest frustrations for these people is the need to generate more revenue, it is equally true that achieving and maintaining a high level of freedom in their role in the business is also a frustration. In other words, most business owners are not doing what they really want to do with their time, energy and money (or the ‘Why’).

There is a continual balancing act for the business owner to balance profitability with the purpose and meaning.  What keeps most business owners from achieving this goal is the continual grind of keeping the business functioning and profitable. Thus, they seem to rise above it all, to achieve the higher purpose and goals. But without a clearly defined vision and purpose, the ability to find true happiness can never be realized.

So, Is The WHY About You?

Another key aspect of the entrepreneurial “pursuit of happiness” is the idea that, as a business owner, if you employ people to work for you, so you can then have the opportunity to provide them with the potential for finding happiness, as well. Chip Conley, said, “I believe that meaning at work is even more important than meaning in work. When employees believe in the work of the company, the whole Hierarchy of Needs is satisfied.”  C. William Pollard said, “People want to work for a cause, not just for a living.”

What this implies is that happiness can be achieved at work as well as in one’s work. And you as the business owner you need to provide the culture and structure to facilitate that. You might ask how this could possibly benefit you as the owner.  C. William Pollard goes on by saying, “As a person sees a reason for the task that is personally satisfying and rewarding and has the confidence that the mission of the firm is in alignment with his or her own personal growth and development, a powerful force is unleashed that results in creativity, productivity, service quality, growth, profit and value.”

Just as with most business owners, an overwhelming number of employees acknowledge that money is not the most important factor in determining satisfaction with their jobs. In fact, studies have shown that recognition, opportunities for development and/or advancement, and gratification almost always out-rank money in terms of priorities or motivators for employees. This is not to say that a fair and equitable compensation is not expected—but that is only part of what makes up an organization that challenges, inspires, and rewards its employees.

So, Is The WHY About the Mission Statement?

An important aspect of mentoring is the work we have clients do in clearly identifying and articulating their Primary ‘Why’. Many clients find that once they finally put this into words and truly recognize what moves and motivates them in life, it positively impacts their business.

Therefore, by having a clear and powerful purpose and identifying how your business serves that purpose, then you can clarify the purpose and mission for the business. By introducing your employees with that purpose, everyone can then share in something larger than themselves and in turn nurture growth, development, and success of your business.

HOW DO BUSINESS OWNERS EAT AN ELEPHANT?

ElephantHow do you eat an elephant? Well, one bite at a time of course!

Maybe you’ve heard that in relation to business ownership as well: “Having a business is like eating an elephant.” Over the years, I’ve worked with business owners from many different industries, with businesses of all shapes and sizes. There is a common sentiment when we begin working together, and it goes something like this:

“There’s just too much! I need to make sure my clients are taken care of. I need to make all the sales calls. I constantly worry about making payroll. I need to talk to the newspaper about the advertisement. I need to make sure the bills get paid. And finally I have to perform a small miracle to get my employees to show up to work on time and do their jobs. How can I possibly do all that? I don’t have time to sit down and develop all these systems, scripts, forms and standards. It would take me a solid six weeks of work just to get this place organized!”

Does that sound familiar? Can you hear some of yourself in all that chaos? You’re not alone. Every business owner since the beginning of time has struggled with how to do it. How do they develop their business, when they can barely get it to run in the first place?

I’m sorry, but I have some bad news for you. You can’t. You will probably never find the time to do it all, if you’re focused on how to do it. Why? Because your focus is off. It doesn’t matter how many times you release your ‘arrow of good intentions’, you’ll never hit the target if you’re not aiming at it. Oh sure, you may get lucky every now and then, and hit the target out of sheer luck. It happens. But you’ll never achieve consistent, predictable results if you don’t take careful aim each time.

You Can’t Hit a Target if you’re Aiming at the Sky

At the risk of seriously mixing my metaphors, that’s why you can’t eat that elephant: your aim is off. It’s not about how. It’s about WHAT. The problem is not how to eat the elephant. It’s identifying the elephant in the first place. Once you’ve identified the elephant, then you can focus on having a system to prioritize where you’re going to start.

Take small bites out of your elephant. Take the right bites. But most importantly, determine what your elephant will look like when you’ve eaten the whole thing this will help keep you focused on the results, not the work.

You need a vision of what your business will look like when the elephant has been eaten. Without the vision, nothing you do in your business will make much of a difference. You may make some small changes, and you may even see some good results of those changes. Everyone gets lucky, once in a while. But without the vision, your business will never truly become a great business. You have to stop focusing on the work, and start focusing on the results.

What is your Vision of your business? What do you want it to look like?

As the business owner, your most important job is the development of your VISION. That’s it. It’s not taking care of your clients, it’s not making sales calls, it’s not advertising your services, it’s not paying the bills it’s not even managing your employees. Your job, your most important role, is defining what your business will look like when it’s finished, and effectively communicating that with your staff.

In our Mentoring Programs we get owners working on their business VISION– this is a real struggle for most people. You start by focusing on the WHAT. WHAT is the product or service going to do for your client? WHAT will it look like? WHAT is your guarantee to your customers? HOW will you keep your employees focused, owning the common VISION and come to work every day committed? We keep you focused on the results, not on the work.

Now you might be thinking, “I have a Vision for my business, but my employees aren’t helping me achieve it!”; of course not. If your employees aren’t helping you achieve your Vision, it’s because you haven’t effectively communicated nor have you devised a Vision that is a shared Vision. They can’t help you hit the target if they don’t know the Who, What, How, Where and Why about the target.

Approach that Elephant Strategically

To determine what bite you need to take first, you need a Strategic Plan. With a clearly defined strategy, only then can you choose Where and When to start. With a clear plan you can develop a system for prioritizing? Without that system, you’ll get stuck in reactive rather than proactive mode. Furthermore, without a system you cannot prioritize. You have to know How and When to pick and prioritize your battles.