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Leadership isn’t about “being right no matter what.” And it isn’t about being macho, sticking it out when turning back is the right action to take. To lead, you must make the best possible decisions for the team’s success.
Which type of person are you? What can you do to lead your team more effectively? To quote the international author, speaker, and leadership guru John Maxwell, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”
The word influencer can act as a kind of acronym for characteristics influencers need and actions they should take:
- Influencers should have INTEGRITY. What does integrity mean to you? Leaders need to define integrity for themselves and communicate that to their team.
- Influencers should NURTURE those they work with. Nurturing means lifting them to a higher level of success.
- Influencers should have FAITH: faith in their team, faith in the vision and that the team can make things happen.
- Influencers should LISTEN. Leaders will know the heart, the hope and the hurt of their team. They will ask questions, use responsive listening, engage with the speaker and want to hear what the speaker is saying.
- Influencers should UNDERSTAND. To understand the mind of a person, look at what he has achieved. To understand the heart of a person, look at what he dreams of becoming.
- Influencers should ENLARGE. They cannot give what they do not have. Enlarging is growing oneself in order to support the growth of colleagues, which in turn grows the organization.
- Influencers should help others to NAVIGATE. A leader is one who sees more than others see, farther than others see, and before others see it. They can navigate their way to success.
- Influencers should CONNECT well: Credibility + Communication = Connections. They connect through relationships, sacrifice, experience, character and insight. Go to their world and connect from the heart.
- Influencers should EMPOWER those around them. They see the potential of the individual and encourage, equip, and empower them. They share their knowledge experience and influence and show others their belief in that person.
- Influencers should REPRODUCE themselves. In other words, they should teach those on their team their skill sets. Model good leadership. Provide training, resources and experiences to create the desired growth.
Which of these are already strengths and which ones do you need to work on to be an effective leader in your start-up or family business?
Hiking can be done alone; there is a time and place for everything. Yet, in general, the fun part of the journey—on the trail and in business—is time spent with others. Who are you taking with you? That is also part of leadership—taking others along with you. I can see some scowls in the audience. “Do I have to take my team with me?” If you want to do it right, then, yes, and you will grow from it. Hiking with people allows for conversation, camaraderie, and support, not to mention friendly (though sometimes useless) chatter. Sounds like some team meetings some of you have attended, right?
Having the right team can make all the difference. Some of you might be saying, “I don’t get to choose my team, so how do I make it work?” Well, if leadership were easy, anyone could do it. The idle chatter on the trail and in family business is an opportunity to learn more about those you hike with—what motivates them, how and why they struggle. The more you understand, the more you can help them grow, and you grow as a result.
Take a closer look at the role you fill on your team. First, fire yourself. Now figure out what the classified ad would look like if you were hiring someone to take your place. For example:
• What background should they have?
• What should their attitude be?
• How will they work with others?
• What kind of work ethic should they have?
• Do they invest in professional development or rest on their laurels?
Walk through this person’s qualifications and conduct. Now for the big question: Would you hire yourself? If not, can you now see what changes you need to make? Make a decision to be the person you would want replacing you. Now hire yourself back and be that.
Ask questions whose answers will show what you can do to support your team members’ success. When individual team members become successful, the team will be successful. As a result, you will be successful. Building or shaping a successful team takes time, energy, and patience. Most managers simply aren’t up for the challenge. They want the easy way—excuses. They don’t want to bother growing themselves, let alone somebody else. It is “above their pay grade.” Really it is just beyond their desire to succeed.
Anything can happen on a mountain. My son was hiking in New Hampshire, and one of his team stepped on a hidden wasp hive. They had a swarm of very upset wasps. Almost everyone was stung at least once and a couple of hikers were stung multiple times. Fortunately, no one had allergies to wasps, but they had the Benadryl to treat if there was a reaction.
Being prepared for unforeseen possibilities is essential. Having a first-aid kit and knowing what to do in case of an emergency go hand in hand. This can be a matter of life and death.
When it comes to your business, ask yourself if you can perform first aid in situations like these:
- How do you handle that major customer who isn’t satisfied with the quality of work just delivered?
- What happens if that major customer (or any customer) defaults? Do you have a way to stop the bleeding?
- How do you handle the disgruntled customer or employee?
Knowing how to treat a broken leg can save a life on a mountain, and knowing how to handle challenges can save the life of your business.
When hiking or running a family business, you must also know how to take care of yourself throughout the journey. Exhaustion can overtake the business owner—and the employee as well—if they don’t take regular rests. Exhaustion also comes from work that is not interesting, energizing, or challenging.
It has been said that eighty percent of businesses fail in the first five years. In my belief, it isn’t from lack of revenue, customers, or plans. It is due to exhaustion. Business owners just don’t have the energy to keep going. They stop serving customers with quality. They stop caring about employees. They stop marketing, selling, and growing the business with the focus and determination they had when they started. Why? Because they haven’t taken care of themselves.
They haven’t taken a break (for example) to go backpacking, leaving all the stress, pressure, and frustration and focusing on something else. You don’t need to go backpacking; however, you do need to do something that doesn’t involve working, just sitting around the house, or doing daily chores.
Here is the bonus when you do get away: the ideas flow more quickly and easily, and your enthusiasm and energy return. The frustration is exchanged with clarity and usually an action plan. You return with that energy and clarity that got you started in the first place. I don’t care how much you love your job or your business: You need a break. So take one.
There’s an age-old statement, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” This often applies to small and family business owners as they’re starting out. They believe:
♦ They can serve the customer more effectively. However, this is much harder than they thought and they eventually start to understand their old company better. Customers can be (and often are) demanding. Their interpretation of quality is different from yours. You may see value in something that the customer doesn’t care about.
♦ They have superior ideas on implementation. Some of those ideas work and some don’t.
♦ Flexibility is fantastic—you can work any part of the 24 hours per day that you want. Yes, you do have flexibility to take your kids to school, pick them up, go to their activities, etc., but there is a cost, and that cost is often working evenings and weekends and other times that you didn’t have to work at your previous job.
It comes down to believing that we will have more control of things in a small business than we could ever have in a “real job.” Sadly, this is not usually true.
Control Is An Illusion
The more we want and think we have control, the less we have. There is always someone else who truly has more control. It might be customers, the government, laws, acts of God. It is that desire for control that if not managed well drains the business.
The inability to delegate is the result of the business owner’s desire to have control. They can do it better than anyone else. They serve the clients better, they know the product better, and therefore they don’t delegate. They truly want the control and the ego boost that comes with it.
Stop it now. Learn how to delegate.
Delegation Is The Key
Suzie had been a controlling person for years. She worked long hours and had a high standard for how things got done. After years of working like this, her energy level and her love of the business began to deteriorate. After getting advice from a family business specialist, she began to realize that others could probably do things as well as she could or, more importantly, better.
Slowly she began to document how to do tasks that she had always thought only she should do. She realized that one of her office team members could enter some of the bills and that she was actually faster than Suzie. That freed up some time to work on more strategic activities. The end result was business growth, increased profit and a happier office team since they were now more empowered and felt more valued.
After you have determined the above and decided who should complete the task, do the following:
- Review the task to be delegated.
- Make sure the employee knows and understands what needs to be done.
- Let them own the task.
If you’re uncomfortable with delegation, you’re in good company. But learning this vital skill will reap amazing benefits in your family business because you’ll be able to focus on and be valued for the things that you truly do best.
“Control freak” is often an apt description of business owners. We like the ability to control our destiny, make our own decisions and see the impact of what we accomplish. The challenge comes with:
-- Understanding how little control we actually have; it’s really just a perception of control.
-- Learning how to relinquish control, i.e., delegate, for the business to grow.
-- Leveraging our controlling nature into something successful.
The example below offers some good insights on this.
An Entrepreneur’s Dream
Sal kept watching how the business was run, the waste that was taking place, how customers were being treated and the lack of profit that was being generated. These frustrations led to his determination to start his own business.
Sal’s premise was that he would treat employees much better than his current employer did, eliminate waste, treat his customers better and generate more profit. In essence, Sal wanted control overthe areas in which his current employer struggled. He accomplished those goals. He also learned a number of lessons in the process.
These goals were Sal’s primary drivers for family business ownership (and possibly entrepreneurship in general). The person who wants to start a business:
- Is tired of following someone else’s lead/orders;
- Believes they can serve the customer better;
- Has different ideas on how to implement the product or service;
- Desires flexibility in their day-to-day lives and a better balance between work and home;
- Craves the ability to make more money.
The Light of Reality
New business owners quickly discover that there are as many challenges in this new role as in their former job. They just have a different look.
To start, the new boss (themselves and their family) is not the wonderful boss they thought they would be and they have a great deal to learn.
The new boss in the mirror isn’t always a pretty sight. They find that the new boss is demanding, doesn’t give vacations, doesn’t allow employees to sleep in, has become more of a perfectionist, is always striving to improve and the list goes on.
Running any business, including a family business, takes as much—or possibly more—commitment and hard work as any other business role. It comes down to understanding the challenges, including lack of control, and then determining if entrepreneurship is right for you.