I have the good fortune of working with over 50 businesses on a regular basis. I get to see the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to leadership challenges. Here are some observations that I hope you will find useful as you continue to manage through these challenging times.
I am always troubled by leaders who can’t handle dissent or different points of view than their own. No leader has all the answers, nor should they be expected to. As you grow an organization, you will find you need to rely on people more not less. Weak leaders want to employ “yes” men or […]
I have been a Charles Handy fan for many years and find that his work only becomes more prescient and meaningful with time. It’s amazing how he could envision the world we would be doing business in before it happened. His thoughts on life, business, and leadership are timeless. I had my son revisit his […]
Leadership isn’t rocket science. Creating the conditions for business success is actually pretty basic: be clear about where you are going and why; define what success looks like and track performance; make sure all of your key people on the same page; don’t “wing it” when it comes to important decisions; ensure that every single employee knows how they fit in the big picture and what they are supposed to be doing; create a process for providing on-going performance feedback; hold people accountable for results (including yourself); be careful about who you hire and put in supervisory roles; provide extensive training and support; never stop communicating with your customers; and make sure everyone shares in the success of the business but also feels the pinch of nonperformance.
Terrific book by Jim Collins worth reading by every business leader – How The Mighty Fall I just wish he published more often… Five Stages of Decline: Hubris Born of Success Undisciplined Pursuit of More Denial of Risk and Peril Grasping for Salvation Capitulation to Irreverence or Death “The concept of hubris is defined as […]
If you employ people, the reality is that employees will come and go. It is extremely rare that someone will take the entire business journey with you (or that you should want them to). A good company still experiences 10-15% turnover each year. One of my old bosses once told me that “The only certainty he had was that he was there at the beginning and would be there until he sells out or hands off the reigns to someone. More than likely, just about everyone else will come and go at some point. All you can do is strive to maximize the mutual benefit of the employer-employee relationship while they are here. You want to create an environment where good people want to stay, but accept the fact they will eventually leave, often for reasons beyond your control.” At the time I thought this was a bit cynical, but I see his wisdom more clearly many years later (Note: I left).
Employee engagement doesn’t mean coddling or succumbing to every employee’s need or whim. Employers, you will always have more leverage in the relationship. Lately, I’ve watched as many of you have allowed the power dynamic to shift upside down. Given the dearth of talent and supply of qualified candidates, you are slowly letting the “inmates […]
The War for Talent is not just a contrived theory, it is reality. Despite what our politicians may be saying, there are many good jobs out there at all levels of skill, talent, and experience. In all my years of consulting/coaching I have never seen a period where so many companies have vacancies for key […]
As we approach another Labor Day it’s actually depressing how many people dread going to work. I’ve ready many different statistics some saying as much as 90% of people are unhappy with their job. Since we spend a significant part of our adult life working, this means that most people will spend a good deal of time unhappy or uninspired in their career. I have a hard time getting my head wrapped around this issue. Why would either party to the relationship accept this reality? I guess that is why individuals change jobs so frequently these days. They are searching for something the data says they have little chance of ever finding.
Most leaders have an uneven record of accomplishment when it comes to ensuring employee success. The wonderful thing about my job is that I can find inspiration everywhere, from all walks of life and fields of practice. It is often cliché that leadership development professionals lean on sports and military examples (at least my male […]
I am in and out of many businesses and the one characteristic all high performing organizations have is good people. You can feel it in the atmosphere. There is a certain way the employees interact with one another and hold themselves. There is a sense of confidence but not arrogance. If you are a guest, you are treated that way and random people will interact with you to make sure you are being taken care of. It’s one of those things you clearly notice about the work environment when it is not present which sadly is usually the case.
As a New York Yankee fan, I must admit to not being all that excited about the movie Moneyball with Brad Pitt when it came out. The story is about the exploits of Billy Beane as General Manager of The Oakland A’s when he literally transformed his approach to running a baseball team. When it got nominated for an Academy Award I thought maybe I should see it one day, but didn’t rush out to but it. I finally saw it last week and was blown away. I guess at this point I should pretty much trust anything Aaron Sorkin is involved with. Not only is the movie well written, directed, and acted, it also has many important lessons that are applicable to my work with business leaders. It was almost as if they had a leadership/management expert on the writing team. I’d like to highlight the following takeaways:
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.
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.
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.
It’s very important that leaders are clear about and enforce standards of acceptable behavior. You will never win long-term in an “anything goes” environment. Winning isn’t everything. Moreover, people will get easily confused if you take a situational approach to moral and ethical issues. If something is wrong for one person it is equally wrong for someone else (even in family businesses). One of my favorite quotes of all time is that “we are what we tolerate.”
There is no more important job of a leader that providing clarity about the mission, vision, values, competitive positioning and direction of the company. Without this information, employees are simply making it up as they go along and/or reacting to events as they occur rather that proactively making the “right” things happen.
What made American industry great was that we had a solid albeit often informal contract between employer and employee. If you show up, put in your dues and do a good job, we will take care of you economically and provide a sense of security around your professional and personal well being. Hang in there and stay the course and there will be opportunities for advancement. We will also create a safety net to catch you when you fall and/or have to deal with challenging life issues. The overarching theme being that we are all in this together and should make the best of it. It is also why we created the largest middle class ever known to mankind and put great distance between ourselves and other economies in the world.
I often get asked for a checklist of management improvement ideas. While the following list isn’t exhaustive, I believe it is a good start for anyone who would like to audit their existing business situation:
Whenever I hear a business owner tell me his employees are like family I wince and get a bit nervous for him/her. No matter how much you may care for your employees they are not family members. Unless, of course, technically they are which creates its own set of issues.
No one is ever successful alone. Whether it is at home or at work you need other people to buy into and ultimately support your success. You need to think of the people close to you as part of a winning team that is committed to a common goal, which is each others success and happiness.