Leaders should be in a constant learning mode. Once you think you know it all give up the reigns of power because you will become detrimental to your organization. While some basic fundamental beliefs may remain true regardless of the circumstances, most of what takes place in business is in a constant state of flux. Your goal should be to stay ahead of the change curve not fall behind it. One way to do this is to keep asking questions and seeking answers. You can never be smart enough.
Month: May 2012
One of the interesting things I find with high performing people is that they are usually harder on themselves than anyone else could be. Sure there are some exceptions – leaders who just self-confidence, but this is rarer than you think. There is usually something that drives an individual to excel. You hope the motivation is a positive one; however this isn’t always the case. I still remember one of my top clients saying several years ago that fear of failure is a good motivator and he didn’t know what he would do if ever actually embraced and enjoyed his success. I found this to be sad and he couldn’t understand why.
It’s easy to get caught up in your own world. Since we pretty much live in our own head, it’s natural to filter everything that happens through how it affects us. However, leaders to need to elevate their thinking to incorporate the bigger picture. The needs of the organization as a whole need to take priority over any one person’s agenda. No leader is ever successful alone. You need employees, clients, vendors, professional advisors and a supportive family. You may sometimes have to sacrifice what you want or desire as an individual for the greater good.
You have to believe in what it is you are doing before you can fully believe in yourself. Life is a constant search for meaning and understanding. The tragedy of many people’s lives is that they are unwilling to put themselves out there because they won’t put forth the required effort, are afraid of public scrutiny and lack the courage of their convictions. Being the hero of your own life isn’t easy.
It’s very important to celebrate your accomplishments! It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day to day aspects of running an organization and forget why you are working so hard in the first place. Being in business can be a bumpy ride especially these past few years. However, if you’ve been in business for any prolonged period of time you must be doing something right. And, it’s important to recognize those events, milestones and people who helped you get here and increase your likelihood of continued success in the future.
Anyone can scare someone else, but it often takes alot more effort to give them courage. Leaders everywhere need to take the lead on changing this mindset. The greatest leaders throughout time have given people hope for a better future. They pushed individuals, communities, organizations and countries to elevate their perception of what’s possible. Instead of scaring people into action and using fear for manipulative purposes, they encouraged others to find the strength and resourcefulness within themselves to meet any challenge and seize opportunity. To quote Winston Churchill, “courage is the first of human qualities, because it is the quality that guarantees all others.”
How an organization makes decisions greatly affects whether or not it will have sustained levels of success. Any company can get lucky every once in awhile, but relying on ad hoc judgments is not a good strategy. One of the most important things a leader does is make decisions. He/she must also create a culture that knows how to make sound judgments without relying too much on any one individual. In essence, you want to foster an environment where you, your management team, and other key employees use decision making filters to increase the likelihood of making the right choices.
Business ownership has never been for the faint of heart. On-going change and adaptability is part of the success equation. Even when things go well there are problems you will have to navigate. As you grow, your company and you should be prepared to experience many if not all of the following issues:
It’s important for everyone to get involved in their community but especially business owners/leaders. No business operates in full isolation from its surroundings. At minimum, you will want a friendly and cooperative relationship with your local public officials and community leaders. You will also want your employees to feel like they live in a place with a good quality of life. It is simple good business sense to be connected to and care about what takes place in your local environment.
Most things of importance and value in life require some level of effort. Some people get lucky and have success, happiness and self-fulfillment fall in their lap, but they are few and far between. In life it has always been that little extra effort that makes the difference. We all must accept that there are many people who will be more intelligent, better looking, more talented, have more advantages, and be more capable than us, but only you as an individual decide if they will outwork you. I’ve found that when you are tired and/or feeling lazy and could easily talk yourself out of doing something, but do it anyway, that’s what separates you from the pack. Success in life and business requires consistent, focused, sustained effort.
Leadership is about people. The best leaders intuitively understand this reality and surround themselves with the best people possible. You can only ever accomplish so much alone. Achieving anything of significance usually requires leveraging the skills, talents and relationships of others. You need to be less worried about being the smartest person in the room and more focused on the collective intelligence of your organization. Over time, your own IQ end up being the average IQ of the ten people you spend the most time with.
I was in a meeting with a group of leaders the other day and after being prompted by a question most of them said that they had many acquaintances but very few friends. It was clear they weren’t particularly happy by this fact, but felt their busy life didn’t leave them much of a choice. I find it paradoxical that in a day and age where we have so many more ways to stay connected with other people, every study I read says that people feel lonelier and more disconnected than ever before. This is especially troubling for people in leadership positions because they feel naturally isolated to begin with.
I’m guessing it is somewhat a function of getting older, but I wake up much earlier these days. At first this used to frustrate me. Although I never was a late sleeper, I did enjoy sleeping until the alarm clock woke me (which was always set too late). Now I don’t even need an alarm clock. It took some getting used to but I eventually started to see my morning time as a gift. I tend to get alot done before the typical day even starts including this blog.
It is surprising and frustrating how many business leaders simply make it up as they go along. Entrepreneurs typically start with a core idea and then if they are lucky have some initial success which requires them to actually build a business delivery model. Most of them then get bogged down in the day to day operation and fulfilling their product/service promise to their customers. Since most companies typically start out undercapitalized and growth eats cash, they also get caught up in basic financial issues which can be a major leadership distraction. Next thing they know they have a company on their hands and employees who expect to have a boss with a clue about the future and a strategic plan of action. It can all be very challenging and easy to fall into a survival rather than success mode.
Most people I know aren’t good listeners. They are more focused on what they think and what they have to say about something rather than actually listening to what’s being said. I have a colleague who states that as a leader you need to “listen until it hurts” and I completely agree with him. It’s basic human nature that the level of satisfaction any of us have with a given conversation is directly related to how well we feel the other party was actually listening to what we had to say. Except when we are in a classroom no one actually enjoys being lectured to or talked at.
Focus on what you do well and then delegate everything else you possibly can. Many leaders spend far too much time on things they aren’t good at. Leadership is about effectively growing, leveraging and deploying assets. If the top personnel resource in the company is being used inefficiently or ineffectively what does that say about the organization as a whole? Time is finite and once it is wasted it is gone.