We need leaders to reclaim the positive leadership narrative and model responsible behavior. We need leaders in charge who genuinely care about other people and want to make the world a better place.
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 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 […]
“A lighthouse can symbolize various things, such as overcoming challenges and adversity or guidance. It is most commonly used to symbolize a way forward and help in navigating through the world. … The first is of the lighthouse itself, which can symbolize salvation and safety, especially in the face of adversity. – source: reference.com” The simile I like to use with my clients is […]
No matter how far out the tide goes, all waves come crashing back to shore. The same is true with business cycles. We have experienced a very good run in business over the past decade or so. After experiencing a difficult recession, our economy roared back to life. Many of us have not only regained […]
As we wind down another year, I thought it would be useful to share some best practices I have observed over the years by leaders who tend to end every year on a high note:
I am regularly flabbergasted by the number of professional people I interact with who think it is okay to just miss meetings and/or deadlines as it suits them. This is especially true when it come to philanthropic or voluntary responsibilities. I do my best to give people the benefit of the doubt and understand that they can be stretched way too thin, but after awhile, why should this be anyone’s problem but their own. Whatever happened to personal responsibility? We are all busy. We are all striving to find work-life balance. Life is about making choices and establishing priorities.
As I’ve covered many times in previous blogs it becomes less and less and about you working harder or having all the answers and more about you diligently asking the right questions and letting others guide you. You need to become an expert question asker and never miss an opportunity to interact with all employees in this manner. There are seven question that when asked on a regular basis will encourage your people and ultimately the company as a whole to learn and grow:
In small business settings once you get past the obvious knowledge and competency screens, success decisions are most often a matter of personal choice.
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).
Leadership isn’t easy or everyone could do it. Some talented people make it look easy, but we often don’t see all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make it look this way. Most leaders struggle at some point and have to learn some difficult lessons along the way. Experience can be the best teacher if you are open to learning. I’ve observed the following 25 ways (in no particular order) that leaders tend to get themselves in trouble:
In business (and life), patience may be a virtue but passion becomes a prerequisite. Being a small business owner is hard work especially for founders and growth oriented leaders. You truly must believe in what you are doing to overcome the many obstacles that inevitably appear on your path along the way. Most people wouldn’t […]
I often observe many leaders who think they are the exception to the rule. Maybe in some regards they are, but not across the board. Moreover, not all exceptions are created equal or warrant consideration. There are some obvious rules of personal and business behavior that we should all respect or at least take heed […]
Regrettably, I am in a profession where there are minimal barriers to entry and just about anyone (within reason) can claim to do what I do. Just about every week, I meet another person who is billing themselves as a business coach or executive coach and charging a considerable amount of money for something they have no business doing in the first place. More often than not, it is someone who has been downsized from an existing position or exiting a failed business endeavor, an individual who has hit a career brick wall themselves, an academic with free time on his/her hands, an independent consultant looking to supplement their income, or a psychotherapist who has figured out they can charge more money if they change the title of what they do. I shutter sometimes when I think about the bad advice which is regularly disseminated to executives and business owner by often well-intentioned, but under-skilled or poorly trained business coaches. Here are a few questions I recommend you ask before working with someone in this capacity:
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.
We have become an excuse making culture. I have been a bit frustrated lately with the quality of service provided by various contractors and service providers. It’s seems as if there is minimal connection between what people promise and what they do. Excuses abound as work doesn’t get done and/or quality issues emerge. There is […]
The biggest mistake leaders make is to think it is all about them. They believe that success or failure is a direct result of their own personal behavior rather than a team effort. Show me a successful leader and I will show you a person surrounded by good people who each do their own jobs exceedingly well. While it is common practice in this country to celebrate the individual, no one builds a high performing organization by themselves. This doesn’t mean that the leader isn’t an essential ingredient; however, he/she needs other ingredients to complete the recipe.
Without a plan your business is a like a tumbleweed blowing in the wind. You don’t know where it will end up and the course it takes to get there is subject to the whims of other forces. Unfocused effort only ever leads to frustration, miscommunication, wasted effort, poor financial decision making, unnecessary stress and less than optimal results.
I’ve witnessed a disturbing trend lately amongst many entrepreneurs. They want to work the hours of a successful person without yet attaining actual business success. I think all this talk of work-life balance has people a bit confused. It you want to run a business that supports a flexible lifestyle, you can certainly choose working for yourself as an option, but financial success usually requires very hard work especially at the beginning. You can’t enjoy the experience of having climbed the mountain without having done the hard work to climb it in the first place. You can’t be all things to all people including yourself; you must make some tough choices about how you spend your time.
There is no business without sales. It sounds like a pretty easy concept to embrace, but I can’t tell you how often I regularly see leaders focus on everything else but selling. It’s almost as if it is an afterthought as they tinker under the hood trying to build the perfect internal product/service delivery engine. In addition, when it comes to making discretionary investments in sales staff or marketing/advertising activities, they are often “penny wise and pound foolish.” Sure, we would all like to have a business where customers line up to buy from us because of how wonderful we are, however, business just doesn’t work that way. The best product or service almost never wins on those merits alone.
I find that one of the most recognizable traits of an effective leader is that they bring positive energy to a room. You can feel it the moment they walk through the door. I have been in banquet halls far from the entrance and felt the presence of certain people as they arrived. It’s almost as if a small electrical jolt works its way through the crowd. While most of us aren’t blessed with this type of “rock star” aura, we can certainly notice and work on the effect we have on others. You are either adding energy to the group dynamic or diminishing it. It really is this simple. Leaders must be a source of consistent positive energy if they want to get the most of out of their people.