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 particularly good period 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 […]
There is a fine line between being good at what you do for a period of time and achieving sustained success. If you are not careful short-term success can lead to long-term complacency. Once you scale the mountain, start looking for the next peak/challenge. Don’t spend too long enjoying the view from the top. I see it all the time: leaders who once had really high standards and big dreams start lowering their expectations and/or getting distracted by other things. They start to spend more time enjoying the fruits of their success than planting the next crop to harvest. Of course, you should bask in the glow of your accomplishments and take some time to appreciate what winning feels like. However, never forget what it took to get you there.
Here are a few basic truths abut business to help ensure your success: It all starts with simple math. The formula is pretty straightforward: Revenue – Expenses = Profit. You need to sell enough of something and price it properly so that it exceeds your costs of doing business. Knowingly taking work at a loss […]
I have always been a fan of Sir Richard Branson. He has so much wisdom to share but more importantly his energy and passion for entrepreneurship and individual initiative is infectious. He is very inspiring. I encourage you to take the time to watch this interview and/or read one of his many books:
What do you stand for? This is a question all leaders should able to answer fairly easily but most struggle with addressing. I’ve been in many organizations where if you asked the question, “What does this business stand for,” you would get blank stares. Values are the building blocks of any organization. Without a common set of beliefs and principles, a company is like a ship without a rudder – adrift in a sea of individual interpretation and situational experience. It has never been just about making money but how you make your money that matters the most. And, the how involves many issues such as the way you treat your customers, employees, vendors, the environment, etc.
Time is finite. No matter how hard we try, we can’t create more of it, so we have to manage the time we have in the best way possible. A leader typically has no time to waste. You need to minimize distractions and maximize your focus. Here are some tips on how to manage your time better:
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.
One of my least favorite sayings I hear from business owners is that “we throw people into the deep end of the pool and see if they can swim.” What a bunch of nonsense! As a leader it is incumbent upon you to make sure your people have the job clarity, tools, resources and training to be successful. You are supposed to set people up for success not push them towards failure. Darwinian logic misapplied to the work environment is professional malpractice.
Being wise and responsible does not mean avoiding risk altogether. In fact, it requires embracing risk, the right risks at the right time with the required investment in resources.
In sports and in life, it doesn’t matter how much potential you have or how good you are, if your team/organization consistently loses or doesn’t live up to expectations. I’ve seen many capable and talented leaders stumble when it comes to getting results from others. It’s not always the smartest, most confident, and technically superior person who wins, but rather the leader who is able to get great results from average people. Leaders need to grow and leverage the capabilities of their team, continually develop their own skills sets, and step up in the clutch if they want to leave a legacy of winning and high performance.
I wish I could tell my clients and colleagues that the best company always wins but that isn’t the case. Over the years I’ve met quite a few leaders who think that doing a good job should be sufficient for success and that money spent on adverstising and marketing is purely discretionary. However, it’s not enough be good at something. People need to know you exist and have to be reminded why you are the preferable option. Sure, you can try to grow your business through word of mouth referrals but this strategy only has a chance if you have low growth objectives and/or your prospective client base is relatively small and/or there is minimal competitive pressure.
Leaders have to be careful about becoming too close to their employees. It is easy to get wrapped up in someone else’s personal life especially if you’ve know someone for a long time. There is a big difference between being a friend and being an employer or boss. The nature of the employer-employee realtionship is transactional – people are paid to do a job. Without the exchange of time for money the relationship probably wouldn’t exist. Moreover, it is much more difficult to hold a friend accountable or if necessary fire them.
One of a leader’s primary jobs is to constantly pay attention to the marketplace and make changes as needed. Markets are dynamic not static and as a result are constantly reinventing themselves. What worked yesterday won’t necessarily work tomorrow. Especially in the current economic environment you need to keep your options open and be flexible and opportunistic as needed. Sometimes you need to be willing to fish in another pond, try another rod and/or use different bait.
I’ve often heard the saying, “if you want something done give it to a busy person.” While I am an advocate of applying the 80/20 principle in most circumstances, I believe the ratio get even greater in organizations and communities when it comes to overall effort and impact – it is more like 90/10 or higher. Some people just seem to be hardwired to take on more responsibility. They just can’t help themselves and have a difficult time saying “no.” When they find a need they feel compelled to address it. Poor performance isn’t an option for them and they work hard even no one else is watching. While it’s great these people exist, I also worry that we expect too much from these individuals and in the end many of them end up suffering from burnout and/or too much stress.
I’ve been in many organizations in my professional career. In each instance, I’ve always come across a leader or management team who has a grand vision of the future and what’s possible. There are no shortage of ideas of what could be done and what should get fixed. I wholeheartedly believe that most people want to do a good job and make a positive contribution. It’s rare when you meet someone in a leadership position who shows up to work each day expecting to fail yet sadly it happens on a regular basis. There is often a disconnect between what people know should happen and what actually gets accomplished. We’ve grown far too accustomed to performance mediocrity and lowering our expectations.
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.
Leadership can be a delicate balancing act. You want to push your people to achieve high performance and exceed what they thought was possible, while also appreciating that you hire employees and people show up with all of their human needs for understanding and support. If you push too hard they resent you and find you harsh and uncaring. If you don’t push hard enough then you enable mediocrity and stunt their growth. It’s not always easy to know where the line exists.
There is no shortage of people who are unhappy with our government or political process these days, but very few of us actually do anything about it. It is much easier to complain and assume that one particular party has all the answers or not. In addition, instead of actually doing some research and using fact based arguments, we prefer to have strong opinions based on the rhetoric and propaganda of ill informed media personalities.
High performing organizations don’t shy away from disagreements. In fact, they encourage constructive conflict between team members. The best solutions are rarely the ones where everyone comes to the same conclusion right away. Different points of view, passion and strong opinions are the lifeblood of any business.
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.